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News

Focus should now be on biometrics training according to UK Biometrics.

UK Biometrics International : 14 November, 2007  (Technical Article)
With biometrics technology having reached levels of accuracy that meet the demands of industry and government systems, the focus must now change to training argues Shaun Oakes, Operations Director of UK Biometrics.
Ten years ago when biometrics was first rolled out as a commercial security application our focus was very much upon perfecting an emerging technology. Issues such as an unacceptably high error rate, sunlight effecting scanners, systems operating in harsh environments and software integration were our primary focus. Those early pioneers who adopted biometric solutions helped the industry refine and harden our offering as we adapted systems to meet the needs of different market sectors.

Today a new generation of sub-dermal biometric readers enable us to return zero errors when handling tens of millions of transactions per month. Because the system reads the fingerprint and the sub dermal collagen ridges it can accurately identify a fingerprint through paint, grease or a latex glove. Cuts or burns to a fingerprint do not return a 'fail' result. The system is robust enough to operate in harsh industrial environments, in extremes of heat and cold, even underwater if required. Today the biometric industry can say with confidence… "We have the technology".

Having perfected that technology we face a new challenge as biometric systems become commonplace in the home, office, industry; health and education sectors. We are faced with 'Training Aliens'. Give someone a key, swipe card, prox fob or PIN and they will quickly open the door. With biometrics the user is faced with alien technology. Public perception of biometrics is that it is simple to operate. It is. Far simpler that a traditional key, swipe, fob or PIN. But only when someone competent is administering the system, teaching people how to use this alien technology. Registering and de-registering users, trouble shooting.

Biometrics is a security science and the system will reject when in any doubt. If, for example, someone believes that they must present the end of their finger to the scanner, rather than their fingerprint pad, the system will reject. If someone believes they must dab their finger quickly on the scanner and remove it without waiting for a green light or a beep, the system will reject.

In over 95% of our call outs to a malfunctioning system it is human error in operation which is the cause of the problem. It is not enough to install a biometric system and demonstrate it to an eager client management team. We must ask who is going to operate and administer this system on Monday morning. We must train the trainers.

A nightclub installation is a good example. The system allows club members to register with ID once. Thereafter they simply turn up and press their fingerprint onto the scanner, are identified and can enter the club. The system is not operated by management. It is operated by door or reception staff, who work shifts and change from night to night. All these staff must have a working knowledge of the system.

A time and attendance system installed at a construction site will be operated by security staff, frequently temporary workers with few IT skills. They do not need high end IT skills to operate the system, but they do need training in its use. Some construction workers fear their fingerprint being stored since they believe it can be cross referenced with national criminal records. They need to be assured that their actual fingerprint is not being stored and that the data stored is secure.
With home builders the challenge lies in the fact that we cannot train every end user, the house buyer, to operate their new biometric door lock. We must train sales agents in every region to a high standard so they can pass on their knowledge to the home owner.

If a key or swipe card doesn't work people will blame the mechanical systems. If a biometric solution doesn't work people will often blame themselves. "The system doesn't like me" is an oft heard comment. Further, many people still believe we store entire fingerprints, thus abusing their human rights. A little pre-installation education on how biometrics works goes a long way towards offsetting these negative preconceptions.

It is crucial if the new biometric system is to gain acceptance with workers and the public that they understand the basic methodology, and we identify the key trainers, and train them to train their staff.

Naturally there is a cost attached to this training, a cost not incurred with traditional security systems. Nobody needs to be trained in the use of a key, swipe, prox fob or PIN. However this cost is offset by the fact that the client will never need to replace keys, fobs or cards, never need to notify several thousand people of a change in PIN. Some early research and planning at the pre-installation stage can minimise this cost and save false call-outs when the biometric system goes live.
Getting key staff together for a day, giving them the information they need to educate their workforce, the skills they need to train system operators and the answers to FAQs can make for a smooth roll out, a happy client and a workforce for whom life just became a whole lot easier.

The message today for the biometrics industry is simple. Training, training, training.
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