March 11, 2010, 3:44 PM — Considering a biometric access system? Experts offer practical advice in these dos and don'ts.
DO expect resistance. All biometrics systems require user enrollment and credentialing, which are expensive and resource-intensive processes, Most says. "There is well-founded resistance to the idea of large, centralized repositories of personal information," she says. Eventual solutions to this problem may include anonymous identification, encrypted transmission of templates, and identity-centric infrastructures with distributed storage models.
In some cases, resistance comes in the form of cultural norms, says Ant Allen, an analyst at Gartner. For instance, finger scanning is not widely accepted in Japan, he says, as people reject the idea of physical contact with the sensors. Since the country's banks use biometric identification extensively for ATMs, many have turned to vein structure biometrics, whose sensors do not require contact.
Privacy concerns are another reason for resistance, he says. An example is retina- and iris-scanning systems, as these images can show symptoms of certain illnesses that people may want to keep private, he says.
DON'T overlook usability. System usability is another important factor. With finger-scanning systems, there is always a segment of the population that encounters difficulties with the scanners getting a correct read due to their skin type, Allen says. "It may mean providing an alternative system for this small group of users, and that might be seen as discriminatory," Allen says. He recounts a client that had to find an alternative for six users out of 2,000 to 3,000, as they could not interact successfully with the scanner. Reasons for enrollment problems include health conditions, racial characteristics, disabilities and personal idiosyncrasies, Most says.
Iris scanners seem to have fewer problems with enrollment, Allen says, but it's not always easy to get a good image. "My eyelids are quite heavy, so I physically have to hold them apart with my fingers to get an image," he says. "It works, but it's inconvenient." Face topography biometrics are also easier for enrollment, he says, but they have a lower accuracy rate.
Vein structure biometrics seem to work in a wide variety of circumstances, he says, although they may fail in extreme temperatures or environments. "A vendor tried it with coal miners, but the carbon from the coal on their fingers blocked the image," he says. On the other hand, these systems can read through medical gloves, which makes them an intriguing option for healthcare applications, he says.