This section details some of the most common questions regarding biometrics.

Please contact us if you require information on an area of biometrics that is not covered in this FAQ.

Q1: What is Biometrics?

Biometrics is a general term used to describe authentication techniques that use a measureable physical characteristic for recognition or verification.

Q2: What are the common Biometric methods?

There are several types of biometric identification methods commonly used in access control and time & attendance systems:

fingerprint: the analysis of an individual's unique fingerprints. This is the most common form of Biometric system used, it is quick and simple and is now commonly found preinstalled in laptop computers and keyboards as a means to log in

face: providing analysis of unique facial characteristics

hand geometry: analyzing the shape of a hand and length of fingers

retina: analysis of the capillary vessels located to the back of the eye

iris: the analysis of the coloured ring that surrounds the eye's pupil

signature: the analysis of the way a person signs his/her name

vein: the analysis of pattern of veins in the hand and wrist

voice: the analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence and frequency of a person's voice

Q3: Which Biometric method is best?

Each of the above work well for different applications, however for access control and Time & attendance systems, we have chosen to use only fingerprint based systems for the following reasons:

Accuracy: greater than 1 in 100,000 false acceptance rate and less than 1% false acceptance rate.

Speed: Very quick to verify – usually 1-2 seconds.

Ease of use: Simple for users to operate, having simply to place their finger on the sensor for verification. Most readers have a fair degree of tolerance to finger placement.

Small template size: allows many thousands of fingers to be enrolled and stored including multiple fingers for the same user (we usually recommend two fingers per user, one from each hand). The small size of the template also allows fingerprint templates to be stored on RFID cards rather than on the readers themselves.

Usage History: Fingerprint readers have been successfully implemented in small and large access control and Time & attendance systems for many years

Privacy: It is important to understand that although we refer to these readers as fingerprint readers, they do not actually read or store a person's actual fingerprint, neither can a fingerprint be recreated from the template stored. Instead fingerprint readers analyze multiple unique points of a finger (usually 12-16) and create an image template of these points.

Q4: How is a Biometric Template collected?

This is carried out during the enrolment process. Depending on the reader used, the initial enrolment should take no longer than a minute to complete. The user's Biometric data is collected and converted into a digital format to create their unique template.

Q5: What is the difference between Verification and Identification

Verification is a task by which the Biometric system confirms a person's claimed identity. Therefore a person tells the reader who he/she is (usually by way of a unique PIN or card presentation), then places his/her finger to the reader to confirm. This is a one-to-one pattern match (1:1).

Identification is a task by which the Biometric system attempts to determine the identity of the person by scanning through all enrolled templates and comparing the presented finger to the database of templates to find a match. This is known as one-to-many (1:N).

Q6: Are there any hygiene issues using Biometrics?

Placing a finger on the sensor of a Biometric fingerprint reader is no different to placing a finger on a door handle, light switch or other general object others have touched.

Q7: What if my Biometric does not work?

Fingerprint readers are the least likely Biometric method to be affected by this problem as there are 10 fingers to choose from, so if one or more fingers cannot produce a useable template, there are alternative fingers available. Some fingerprint readers are less likely to be affected by poor fingerprint definition as they go beyond the surface print to locate the unique characteristics.

Q8: Are Biometric systems more expensive than card based systems?

Biometric systems are usually more expensive to initially install than card based systems due to the technology involved, however depending on the number of users, as there are no cards required, there is this cost saving both initially and ongoing, coupled with the time required to administer a card based system dealing with lost or stolen cards and issuing new cards to new users, a Biometric system can prove less expensive in the longer term.

Q9: How reliable are Biometric systems?

Biometric systems are generally built to a high standard and usually have no mechanical parts, therefore very reliable and robust. We still have systems installed in the mid nineties working today. However as with all electronic access control and time & attendance systems, there is a possibility a system can break down. It is important to accompany the system with a maintenance and support package with the installer to ensure any system faults are dealt with quickly and efficiently. A maintenance and support package will also provide you with the peace of mind of ongoing technical support to help you run the system.

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