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Biometrics - an unique identification method

Face or finger, palm or vein, no matter the method, the rise of biometrics as the preferred method of access and identification, is definitive.   Simply put, it is the use of unique biological features to confirm identity.

In many environments, both commercial and private, it is critical to know who is on the premises, and when they arrived and left.   Clocking in and out used to be mainly a "blue collar" requirement, tracking hourly paid workers and easing payroll pressure.   Increasingly, biometric devices are being used in office environments, as well as housing estates, gyms and apartment buildings.  Traditional cards are easily mislaid, but its a bit more challenging to lose your finger or face!

However, there is still a significant usage of cards, pin codes and other physical devices, and it is a fact that almost 3% of the population do not have consistently readable fingerprints.

In the South African people management space (Human Capital Management/Workforce Management), it is important to have proof of attendance for a number of reasons, both statutory and practical.

While the most widely used method is fingerprint, face recognition is growing, and is seen as a real advantage in more hygiene conscious environments, such as food preparation areas and hospitals.

Buddy clocking has always been a problem with traditional card and tag usage, and the combination of biometric devices and barrier systems go a long way to preventing people clocking in for each other.   One of my favourite card stories was the one about two brothers, who looked a lot alike, sharing a job for over two years, before their different work ethics finally gave them away.

Interestingly, it is generally believed that because our fingerprints are unique, they are a foolproof method of identification.  But it is not that simple.   First, with computerised identification systems, the fingerprint is stored as an algorithm, and the quality of the original fingerprint captured can be a factor.   False accepts (FAR) and False reject rates (FRR) are a possibility, and the careful implementation and ongoing checking of systems is important.

With the increase in computerised systems managing people, it is becoming key to ensure that infrastructure and systems are regularly monitored.  The Protection of Personal Information Bill (PoPI) is also going to add a layer of sensitivity as to who is able to access data.

Biometrics at Accsys


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