Biometrics comes of age
 
Biometrics comes of age

Feb 1, 2001 12:00 PM
By Jeanne Bonner

Biometrics has outgrown its futuristic image and entered the mainstream. Today, biometrics ! biological measurements that provide positive identification ! are used not only in government facilities but increasingly in diverse commercial applications. Biometrics, in the form of finger, hand, face and iris scanners, have become commonplace. This article will report how biometric data is being used in diverse applications to verify identity at city offices, nightclubs, automated teller machines (ATMs) and even television studios.
Fingerprint scanning saves IT department time and money

For Michael Sherwood, fingerprint scanning has been a real time-saver. As IT director for the City of Oceanside, Calif., Sherwood attends to the computer needs of more than 1,000 city employees. Oceanside is a picturesque town of 160,000 people, located about 35 miles north of San Diego. It boasts miles of beach front, a sunny climate and a marina.

The City of Oceanside has been using the Biologon fingerprint scanning system from Identix, Sunnyvale, Calif., for two years. Originally, it deployed the product in a pilot program involving two or three departments at a time.

According to Sherwood, "People forget their passwords. A large percentage of calls to the help desk involve a lost password. So the Identix Biologon has improved our overall security and has added an extra layer of security. Forgetting passwords is one thing, but losing data is expensive, especially if you cannot recover it."

Just as the 1,000 Oceanside employees use the fingerprint scanner to log on, so do many non-profit agencies that come under the IT department's purview. The logon system is also integrated with a time-and-attendance application. Employees must fill out time sheets posted on line, after scanning their fingerprint to verify identity.

The biometric logon also combats shared passwords. "In the past, some employees who did not have access to the Internet or did not have access to a certain part of the server borrowed passwords and computers from their coworkers," says Sherwood. "That's a problem. You would not give out the code to your bank card, would you?"

Sherwood and his staff of 17 installed the Identix product themselves. Before installing the software at existing employee workstations, the IT department did what Sherwood refers to as "pre-marketing": they sent employees information about the product to educate them and ease concerns.

The enrollment process is straightforward. The Identix software is pre-loaded onto every computer at the City of Oceanside. The software features an enrollment tutorial. Each employee enrolls with the help of a technician. He or she types in the password at the Windows logon prompt and then accesses the fingerprint software. The tutorial prompts the employee to scan his finger once and then again for verification. He then types in his password to authenticate the finger impression. The process is complete.

The hardware is comprised of one item: the scanner, which is smaller than a computer mouse. Sherwood affixes the scanner to the right hand side of the monitor on all the computer.

"There was very little resistance from the staff. In the beginning, some employees were worried that we could recreate their fingerprints, but we assured them that was not the case. Reaction has been positive ! I was surprised, I must say. And the staff reaction coupled with the easy installation has resulted in a smooth transition," Sherwood concludes.

The city of Oceanside offices are also protected by other forms of security. Most of the facilities have CCTV, and Card Key proximity readers control access at the building entrances. Sherwood says the city is also considering implementation of an asset tracking system.
Dutch discotheques weed out troublemakers with biometric technology

Discotheques in Europe, like those in America, are places to dance, socialize and hear the latest music. Discotheques can also degenerate into forums for violence and aggression. A group of discotheques in the Netherlands has formed a network to share information about troublemakers in order to keep violence out the clubs. The clubs have installed biometric kiosks ! like ATM machines ! that enroll club patrons in a smart card system that verifies identity through fingerprint and facial impressions.

Interstrat, the systems integrator for the discotheque project, is headquartered in Enschede, Holland, and has clients throughout Europe. The participating discotheques are located in several Dutch cities including Rotterdam, Antwerp and Amsterdam. The network consists of fifteen discotheques serving approximately 50,000 patrons.

Keyware Technologies, Woburn, Mass., supplies the centralized authentication server (CAS). It allows for so-called biometric layering, in this case combining facial recognition technology with fingerprint scanning. Using CAS, organizations can manage all of their authentication methods from a central server.

The 64K smart cards and the smart card reader are supplied by Gemplus, Bethesda, Md. No name appears on the cards, and they are shipped blank. They are imprinted with data when inserted into the smart card slot on the Biomates enrollment kiosks. The cards cost about $10 and are available for sale at the club doors. Each club has two or three enrollment stations.

When the kiosk reads the smart card as blank, the system triggers a small disk which contains step-by-step instructions to guide new users through the enrollment process. The smart cards are multi-faceted. Like many phonecards in Europe, the smart cards provide advertising space on them.

A small Sony digital camera takes impressions of the face. The camera quickly takes four pictures and converts the features of each face into an algorithm template. It measures the pixels on the face and identifies 50 distinct pixel formations, including, for example, the distance between the nose and the eye on a particular face. A new beard or a pair of glasses will not impair the system's ability to identify someone.

The fingerprint sensor is manufactured by Berg Data, Germany. The fingerprint impression is used not only for identity but also for such other applications as an electronic purse. Club-goers can buy drinks with their smart cards and verify their identity with the encrypted fingerprint embedded in the card.

Although the fingerprint data are stored on the smart card, the facial impression is not. Troublemakers are identified by club owners and their records are stored in a central server database of facial records, shared by the club owners. When a troublemaker tries to enter one of the clubs, a warning appears on the monitor informing the bouncer that this individual has caused trouble. The bouncer can then decide whether to admit the individual or not.

Each time a patron arrives at a club, he swipes his smart card, his fingerprint is scanned and the camera takes an impression of his face. The process takes only a few seconds. The readers can accommodate 600 people an hour and are smaller than the kiosks and do not have card printers.

The Dutch club owners have banded together to combat violent and disruptive behavior, a phenomenon referred to throughout Europe as "hooliganism." Ron Velders, CEO and president of Interstat, says, "There is real social problem of violence among a small group of club-goers. Drug use is less of a problem in these discos than physical violence."

The club owners and their staff have responded positively. The patrons, some of whom are immigrants and the subject of considerable discrimination, have, surprisingly, also reacted positively. According to Velders, "They think it is a much fairer system than what we had before." The whimsical discretion and unappealable impunity of the bouncer have been replaced by the unerring impartiality of a machine. Regardless of appearance, if a person has not caused trouble before, he will be allowed entrance without exception.

This application is unique in several ways. The discotheques face problems specific to their location. Unlike clubs in the United States, many of these discos are open until 11 a.m., providing ample time for some patrons to drink or drug themselves toward violent activity.

Furthermore, the sharing of biometric data among the clubs is a possibility for the Dutch club owners because there is no law prohibiting the pooling of such data. In the United States, however, it is illegal to share biometric data. According to Elizabeth Marshall, director of worldwide communications for Keyware, "Massachusetts and New York have just passed laws forbidding the sharing of biometric data. Hence, it is a particularly interesting installation for Keyware because we cannot duplicate it here in the United States with our other clients."
Iris impression unlocks bank accounts at Texas ATMs

Biometrics knows no boundaries: it has not only infiltrated the discotheque but also the top secret world of banking. Bank United, headquartered in Houston, has been operating "ITMs" for nearly two years now in three locations.

Bank United decided to embark on a pilot program of installing iris recognition stations into three ATMs. These ITMs are in bank branches in supermarkets in Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth.

Iridian Technologies, Marlboro, N.J., worked with Diebold, the manufacturer of the ATMs, to install the IriScan stations in these ATMs. The iris recognition unit ! which bases its identification in the unique patterns of the human iris ! was installed above the ATM and has a specially designed cover.

According to Joe Arbona, spokesperson for Bank United, "IriScan has been a factor in our efforts to provide customer service. Providing the biometric possibility allows us to offer our customers one more service."

The enrollment process takes place in the bank lobby at the supermarket branches and is handled by a personal banker at his desk. The personal banker has the IriScan software and the database of encrypted iris impressions on his PC.

Arbona says, "We investigated several biometric access control options. We needed something that would be unobtrusive and something that would put our customers at ease. IriScan fit our needs."

The ITMs accommodate bank customers who continue to use passwords as well as those who have elected to provide proof of identity with their eyes. The IriScan camera is triggered when the user touches the ATM screen. The touchscreen asks customers to select a form of identification and then guides the user through the identification process. The bank customers who elect to use the IriScan system do not need to use their bank card. Hence this installation is unique because it is a single-factor application. Arbona explains, "We figured that if IriScan positively identifies the customer for who she is, why should the bank require a card? The IriScan is enough."

The digital camera that takes the impression of the iris also captures anything in the area surrounding the bank customer, an added security feature useful to the bank.

Following the IriScan installation, Bank United conducted a customer satisfaction survey. "One of the most popular services we offer, according to our customers, is the iris identification system. It is important enough to our customers to convince them to stay with our bank."

Bank United is currently merging with Washington Mutual Bank. It will wait until the merger is final to determine whether to expand the IriScan system to other ATMs.
Hand scanners protect precious A&E employees and archives

If you wanted to raid the A&E network's "Biography" tapes or meet face-to-face with "Investigative Reports" anchor Bill Kurtis, you would be stopped at the entrances to the cable television channel by Recognition Systems hand scanners.

A&E, the arts and entertainment cable channel beloved by fans for its "Biography" program and its reruns of popular television shows such as "Law & Order," has been using the Recognition Systems hand scanners since the beginning of 2000. The network, founded in 1984, occupies four buildings in Midtown Manhattan. Comments Patrick Matthews, director of telecommunications and support services, "We needed a better way to manage the many people that come and go, and we decided to go with the hand geometry method."

According to Matthews, the president of the network had seen the hand scanner and became intrigued. "We had a mag stripe card system before that was not Y2K compliant and could not be upgraded." The hand scanners went on line at the end of 1999. There are between 50 to 60 hand scanner units installed throughout the four buildings.

Matthews and his staff conduct an introduction to A&E every Monday that includes enrollment in the hand scanner database. All new employees ! including temporary employees ! are enrolled in the Recognition Systems database. "We explain to the new employees that access to the A&E building requires a hand scan," says Matthews. Access is specific to an employee's building and floor. Each employee is assigned a PIN which he or she then enters into the keypad on the top of the scanner unit. The employee then places his hand on the registration unit scanner, which is studded with pins to guide a person's hand to the right position. After a scanner measures the geometry of the hand, enrollment is concluded.

A&E employs many writers and directors who are needed on a periodic basis. Matthews is able to set expiration dates on access without having to remove a person from the database. "This feature is handy because we have a lot of long-term consultants who work with us for three months then leave and then six months later come back to consult on another project. The person is deactivated in the months she is not consulting with us but remains in the system."

Matthews says there have been few problems in implementing the system and it has resolved the issue of forgotten or lost access cards. "We have a lot of creative people here who from time to time forgot their cards. But of course you cannot forget your hand. The convenience is a real bonus."

The A&E facilities are home not only to creative people but creative property. One of the network's best sellers is home videos of the "Biography" program segments. Viewers can access a catalog of videos and other products on the network's web site. "We have the master tapes here in our offices and the dubbing of the new tapes for home video is done here. The masters are very valuable to us. We need to have a foolproof method of controlling access to our facilities to protect our property as well as our people," Matthews explains.

The Recognition Systems software is easy to use, according to Matthews, and resides on the registration PC. He does not have access to the software from his own PC but plans to change that in the future. The registration hand scanner is hardwired to the administrative PC which has a network connection to the scanners in the other buildings.

A&E takes other precautions as well. The four buildings contain CCTV and the employees carry ID badges. Matthews is hoping to instill a more security-conscious mindset. "I would like eventually for all employees to wear their badges at all times so the visible badge signals to others that the person has access and a missing badge indicates this person may not have access."

He would like to exploit the capabilities of CCTV and remote monitoring. "I am looking into being able to pull up a camera on any PC to view video, for example, of the entrances. I would also like to use the reporting function of Recognition System to its greatest potential."

Recognition Systems does provide a time-and-attendance option and Matthews has used it on occasion. The company is growing, and Matthews expects to expand security to keep pace with the network.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. At a television network whose staff includes popular anchors and celebrity guest hosts, not everyone has to submit a hand scan. Matthews confirms, "The stars don't use the hand scanner. They have their own security people and our job then is to coordinate our security activities with theirs." Which doesn't include slipping the star's hand into the HandKey II and patiently waiting five seconds for access.
About the author

Jeanne Bonner is associate editor of Access Control & Security Systems Integration.
Biometrics in the news

Acer America features Veridicom biometric on its laptops

Acer America has become the first portable computer manufacturer to incorporate Veridicom's fingerprint sensor and pre-boot authentication software in its 739TLV notebook laptop. The Veridicom FPS110- fingerprint sensor chip is embedded in the TravelMates computer's palm-rest area. The user presses the sensor with his fingerprint when a logon prompt appears and it is matched through Veridicom's VBX application.
Mentalix releases version 3.0 of its fingerprint scan toolkit

Mentalix, Plano, Texas, has released version 3.0 of its Fingerprint Scan API Toolkit. The toolkit allows integrators to add FBI-certified fingerprint card and latent print scanning capabilities to custom security and law enforcement systems. Version 3.0. also has a FBI IAFIS-certified runtime library that supports the Epson Expression 1600 scanner. The kit includes a fingerprint definition template to support non-U.S. fingerprint cards.
U.are.U verifies identity online

DigitalPersona has launched U.are.U Online which protects customer information by verifying identity via a fingerprint scan before allowing someone to access accounts or complete transactions. The sent message is encrypted and can only be unlocked by fingerprint verification. The U.are.U 5000M optical Fingerprint Sensor is a self-contained module that scans fingerprints and communicates the digital image to a host processor via DMA parallel or USB interface. Digital-Persona has also added fingerprint recognition to select IBM desktop computers and Chicony keyboards.
Identix launches portable BioTouch

Identix has launched BioTouch, a self-contained, mobile fingerprint verification system that can fit into a laptop's PCMCIA slot. BioTouch secures the data on a computer by controlling access to enterprise and internet applications using Identix' BioLogon software. BioTouch PC cards are bundled with BioLogon 2.0 Client for Windows.

 
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