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Effectiveness of different biometric technologies for identity authentication

Secure access control is of primary importance when organizations worldwide are returning to the workplace after working from home. The global COVID-19 pandemic has transformed security needs. Now that we know how quickly a viral infection can become a worldwide pandemic, workplace security must include contactless features incorporating biometric and facial recognition technologies. 

Recent advancements in technology support a cloud-based access control system, enabling any smart device to be converted into an access control reader. By 2026, the access control market is expected to become a $13.1 billion USD industry, with an expected CAGR of 8.7%.

Biometrics-based access control

Biometrics access control combines the power of advanced security with convenience unlike that of any other system. The access point could be a door, elevator, turnstile, or any doorway that allows only authorized users to pass beyond a certain point. Biometrics access control systems provide access based on who the user is. Biometrics can be based on fingerprints, palm veins, the iris, face, voice, or handwriting, each of which is described below.

Biometrics is primarily synonymous with fingerprint access control—one of the oldest biometrics that was used for signing and authenticating confidential documents in early civilizations. Most people understand how fingerprint biometrics work. Modern-day fingerprint access systems are cheap and mass-produced. For example, these systems are used in modern smartphones to authorize access for the owner of the phone.

Palm vein biometrics, which is relatively new, recognizes users based on vein patterns and blood flow patterns in their palms. As an internal biometric, it is more secure. Reverse engineering palm veins is extremely difficult without access to advanced hacking systems. Spoofing the scanner is almost impossible as the biometric pattern is not exposed in common places. Palm vein biometrics has the lowest false rejection rate (FRR) and false acceptance rate (FAR) among other biometric technologies.

Iris biometrics authorizes users based on the unique pattern of their iris. This biometric system captures a higher number of data points on the iris, making it one of the most accurate biometric systems. To further increase security, both eyes can be scanned.

A voice biometrics system is useful in places such as call centers, where a person’s voice can be used for identification purposes. This is helpful in teleconferencing systems, but the voice can be duplicated easily. Therefore, for advanced security, a combination of voice recognition and other biometrics must be used.

Handwriting recognition systems are widely used in judicial and banking systems where users are authorized based on their signatures. Touchscreen devices can be modified for handwriting recognition. These systems are used as low-level security measures.

Pros of Biometrics

  • Specific to the user
  • Difficult to create a duplicate
  • Easy permission management control
  • Accurate access control
  • No need for the user to remember the access code
  • Biometric ID is always available
  • Efficient and quick access control
  • Reduced need for security personnel
  • No replacement cost

Cons of Biometrics

  • Systems are susceptible to wear and damage.
  • Cuts, bruises, and scans can significantly change fingerprints, making identification difficult.
  • Fingerprint devices require physical contact, which makes them unhygienic.
  • Third parties with 3D printing and fingerprint analysis technologies can easily duplicate the ID.
  • Iris scanners can capture images from more than 40 yards away, increasing privacy risks.
  • Voice-based systems don’t address privacy concerns.
  • Voice recognition is not useful in noisy areas.
  • People may not have consistent signatures, which makes authorization difficult.

Facial recognition-based access control

Facial recognition is one of the various modes of a biometric system that is used widely. Individuals are authorized based on facial vectors and features. For example, iPhones use Face ID to increase smartphone security, moving beyond fingerprint-based authentication. The banking sector has started using facial recognition for Electronic Know Your Customer (e-KYC) and employee attendance. These systems can be adapted to verify health measures, such as using face masks or body temperature scanning. Smart advertising systems also use facial recognition for targeted advertising.

Pros of facial recognition

  • Requires minimal interaction
  • Completely contactless

Cons of facial recognition

  • Facial expressions may result in recognition errors.
  • Facial accessories may result in authentication failure.
  • Facial features can be captured from far away, making the system vulnerable to security risks.
  • Privacy concerns include recognition without consent.

Which access control is best for your organization?

Biometrics-based systems are useful in authenticating users for restricted access. Employees can be assigned different levels of access to the same center depending on their permissions, and there is no need for key cards, strip cards, or passwords to enable restricted access.

e-Passports are now widely used to prevent counterfeit and duplicate documents. Biometric technology has simplified attendance systems and company payroll systems. Likewise, financial institutions incorporate biometrics involving bodily features to ensure customer authenticity.

Facial recognition systems are useful when identification is more critical than authentication, such as in law enforcement. Accurate facial mapping technologies can identify a person even with makeup.

Facial emotion recognition has vastly improved the use of facial recognition systems. It is instrumental in marking attendance during meetings because a single image can identify all the participants in the image. The incorporation of AI technology results in better facial recognition algorithms that can learn continuously. They are used in quickly finding missing people based on CCTV footage.

Various countries and institutions use FR systems for identification, authentication and authorization for purposes other than simply granting access. For e.g. China plans to use facial recognition systems for its social credit system. Airports use facial recognition to enable people to move through security more quickly. Voter identification in Brazil’s electoral systems also relies on facial recognition.


The right security authentication system for your organization depends on your security needs. You need to maximize authorization when restricting access to heavy machinery, confidential documents, financial vaults, or proprietary research. A combination of biometrics involving palm-vein analysis, iris scans, and more can be used in such cases. Facial recognition automates attendance and payroll management, completely eliminating the need for manual checks. In many organizations, biometrics and facial recognition technologies are used in parallel depending on the security and vulnerability risks involved.

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