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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

Security and productivity from biometric technology

07 October, 2013
Biometrics has reached a level where hybrid systems are available which bring commercial benefits to the user as well as enhanced security

By Jonathan Newell

ProSecurityZone has been following the developments and trends in biometric technology during the last decade and over that time our engineers have been discussing the key issues with the main suppliers. Initially, facial recognition seemed to be the way forward for high security applications, counter-terrorism and border control, areas which still benefit from the technology.

Fingerprint recognition always had the most promise for mass enrolment applications but the technology never seemed to be quite ready for it and therefore generating many frustrations along the way.

The fingerprint has now come of age and mass enrolment is a reality that can be witnessed on several consumer and commercial applications. One industry where fingerprint biometrics are enjoying success is in the highly regulated and difficult to manage construction industry and so we spoke to Ollie McGovern, the CEO of Simeio about how his company has the goal of transforming time and attendance on building sites.

Coming from a background in construction, Ollie and his company are well aware of the challenges of handling large quantities of site workers with high levels of churn and constantly changing contract staff. Building companies need to know who's on site, who they work for, when they arrived, what project they're working on and what qualifications they possess.

He told me that biometrics provides an elegant way of managing all of this information as the fingerprint is a unique identifier that can be matched quickly and simply to a full record concerning the employee. By using a mobile on-site reader or a wall mounted unit at the site entrance, all the data needed can be gathered at the site entrance.

Ease of enrolment means that new employees can use a touch screen to answer a number of questions about themselves and their qualification then "sign" it using their fingerprint which also enrols them for biometric access control.

I asked Ollie about possible enrolment problems due to dirt or damaged fingers and he explained that building sites these days are well-run. Safety and cleanliness are important factors so the problem of grimy fingers is rare but even if they exist, the multi-spectral fingerprint readers used in the system penetrate beneath the first layers of skin and so are largely unaffected by problems on the skin surface such as oil or dirt.

Once registered on the system and all the information is captured, the company then has the ability to meet regulatory requirements for signing in and out, secure the premises from unauthorised people and improve cost control and business effectiveness. Simeio's equipment and software is integrated into business management software so project costings can be granularized down to sub-projects and specific tasks enabling an understanding of where costs or project time-scales are over-running. It can also be linked to delivery management systems.

A typical problem on large construction projects is the assignment of qualified resources to verious tasks. Having the qualification and competence database matched to the site access control system enables site managers to interrogate the software to find out how many workers are qualified on a specific task and where they are currently deployed. This enables the redeployment of resources swiftly as required.

It doesn't require a great leap in the imagination to see how such value could be applied in other industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, manned guarding and haulage.

Jonathan Newell is a broadcast and technical journalist specialising in security systems and transport safety. He contributes to a range of titles in the technical press. He shares his time between the UK and Kazakhstan

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