Contactless biometric technology: Safeguarding the post-pandemic return

Contactless biometric technology: Safeguarding the post-pandemic return

This guest feature on contactless biometric technology is brought to you by IDEMIA’s vice president of sales for the Middle East and Africa, Nicolas Garcia.

It’s been over a year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID 19 virus a global pandemic. This once in a century declaration saw extreme measures kick in almost overnight. To minimize the spread between countries, borders were closed; to ensure personal safety, wearing of face masks, temperature checks and social distancing were introduced. 12 months later, most developed countries have started vaccination campaigns. But almost all countries have chosen to keep in place the personal safety measures to protect communities as people continue to live, work and play. These personal safety measures are likely to stay in place for a while more as the world slowly inches towards recovery.

These personal safety measures, clunky at first when implemented, have generally become more convenient and frictionless with the help of contactless technology. Take for example, temperature checks. Contactless thermometers and scanners have turned up at mall entrances, schools and office entrances to facilitate a non-intrusive experience for people.

As the world reopens and people start to physically go back to work, protecting personal safety at work needs to go hand-in-hand with ensuring security. Any responsible enterprise will work to ensure that both goals are achieved and both talents and physical assets are safeguarded. Given that surfaces can become a possible spread for the COVID 19 virus, there is a natural inclination towards contactless technology. In terms of security, biometric data is widely considered to be one of the most accurate and secure forms of identification and verification. Both factors already highlight the benefits that contactless biometric over other existing technologies. Coupled with several advantages like increased efficiency and the frictionless end-user experience, it is not a surprise that contactless biometric technology is the preferred technology of choice for access control. For example IDEMIA’s MorphoWave Compact can accurately verify over 45 people within a minute with a simple wave of an individual’s hand over the reader.

 Which biometric?

Biometric data are extracted from a human body part (a face, a finger or an iris) through the isolation of multiple reference points converted via an algorithm into a digital record (“template”). This template is stored in the biometric device or on a server, and used as the reference for comparison with data extracted by the device each time an individual requests access. Once the two data sets match, the individual gains access.

Long gone are the days when it was only government agencies that leveraged biometrics for identification. While it is not proven, it still may be possible to date the general acceptance of biometric verification as part of our daily lives to when consumers like you and I began unlocking our phones first with our fingers and more recently, with our faces.

Though not an exhaustive list, the following factors, just to name a few, should be considered when deciding on the appropriate kind of biometric for an enterprise.

Adoption/acceptance: The chosen type of biometric modality (facial, iris, fingerprints…) depends on use cases security requirements and preferences, but can also be influenced by cultural habits, beliefs, or others.

Accuracy: With biometrics, trust is paramount. Users must trust and be confident that the system can positively identify them every time, all the time.  It must be true whether 1 person or 10,000 person uses the system but it must also be true if using the system for verification (1:1) or for identification (1:n).

Anti-spoofing: Biometric equipment installed to provide a high level of access security must not be easily manipulated. It must therefore use efficient anti-spoofing hardware and software mechanisms, like false finger detection for a fingerprint reader and 3D/infrared cameras and image processing for facial recognition devices.

Algorithms: Together with hardware components like the sensor for a fingerprint device or cameras for facial recognition, algorithms provide the processing power and speed. We recommend selecting products from vendors that develop their own algorithms and that rank high in the very stringent NIST  evaluations.

Speed: High-speed processing is key for efficient operations from an office building to a residential estate. The appropriate systems must offer throughput of at least 30 users per minute per device to provide fluidity and avoid queues.

End-user convenience: This is key for user adoption. If users have trouble to use a system or struggle to be identified first time, they will resist its use. This also includes change of conditions throughout the day. When a system functions identically with various light conditions, it saves much frustration for users.

Other benefits of contactless biometric technology

Safeguarding health and safety of the community as they come back to work and other activities is obviously more than ensuring secure access control. The personal and community sanitation measure such as social distancing and face masks will have to be followed. This is also where contactless biometric technology can help.

For example, visitors can be pre-enrolled via an app and verified with contactless biometric solutions upon reaching the office building. This will help to avoid unnecessary crowding of reception areas. When facial recognition and other detection technology are integrated into a larger live monitoring system, building administrators will be able to get live alerts of the density of people in a particular space and be able to always adhere to social distancing regulation during office hours.

Safeguarding end user privacy post-pandemic and beyond

Leveraging biometric data to verify an individual for access always brings to mind the question of end userdata privacy. IDEMIA has anticipated privacy concerns by setting up a self-regulation system with protective measures for end users. Individual biometric data like fingerprints or face images are not stored by IDEMIA. The biometric data is reduced and changed into biometric point characters, with their own template and biometric code. This, in turn, is secured before processing. We work with all our customers to install technology solutions that adhere to privacy regulations. Indeed, at IDEMIA we firmly believe that people need to know how their data is used, how long it is saved and why IDEMIA privacy-by-design solutions ensure that private data is protected.