Understanding fingerprint access control devices
Do you run a business or own a building that needs high-tech security? Are you in a situation in which standard locks and keys or generic swipe cards and keypads just won't do?
If so, you might be a good candidate for a fingerprint access control system. Read on to find out how such an access system works. You'll learn about some of the key benefits to this type of biometric access control system, how much you can expect to pay compared to other readily available access control systems, and whether a fingerprint access control devices are a good fit for your business.
How fingerprint access control systems work
In reality, the security aspect of a fingerprint access control system is much like any other access control system. Your workers must present a form of identification (whether it is a swipe card or code in standard systems or a fingerprint, in this case) to your system controller. This then logs and allows entrance to the secured area.
What distinguishes a fingerprint access control system is the technology needed to recognize the slight variations of the human fingerprint.
The key piece of equipment used is the fingerprint sensor, which has two specific jobs:
- To scan a "picture" of your fingerprint.
- To determine whether or not the scan matches the fingerprint on file.
The different types of fingerprint scanners
While fingerprint sensing technology is ever-changing, types of fingerprint scanners are not limited to but may include:
- Optical. At its heart, an optical fingerprint scanner is nearly identical to a digital camera or picture scanner. It has the same CCD (charge coupled device), which snaps a picture of your fingerprint when your finger is placed against the glass plate. Compared to the capacitance scanner below, an optical scanner is more easily manipulated with a high-quality fingerprint scan that includes light and dark areas. Optical scanners are also a bit bulkier than capacitance scanners, making them poor candidates when space is a concern.
- Capacitance. On the other hand, a capacitance scanner uses electrical current instead of light to come up with a picture of your fingerprint. It does this by comparing relative charges between the ridges and valleys of your fingers. While both optical and capacitance scanners result in a picture of your fingerprint, the main advantage to a capacitance scanner is that it requires ridges and valleys to make it harder to fool. An optical scanner can be fooled by a high-quality scan of a fingerprint, which would also include light and dark areas.
- Thermal. A thermal scanner relies on the pyro-electric technology used in infrared cameras. The contact temperature of fingerprint ridges will be measured on a sensor, as well as the ambient temperature of fingerprint valleys. This scanning technology does have some drawbacks in temperature change, wear, and contamination.
- Pressure. A thin pressure fingerprint scanner may be used in an electronic device with either micro-electro-mechanical or conductive film sensing technology. MEMS is one of the newest fingerprint sensing technologies available that employs miniscule silicone switches to detect a fingerprint electronically.
- Ultrasonic. An ultrasonic scanner is advantageous since it can sense biometric characteristics below the skin. Nonetheless, the technology is difficult to implement because it is costly, bulky, and slow at times, not ideal for use in a fast-paced security environment.
- RF sensor. An RF sensor uses a low radio frequency to detect and read an individual fingerprint. This sensor can identify the dermal layer below a fingerprint surface to make the technology less sensitive to damage or corruption.
After a fingerprint is captured, it is then compared to the fingerprint on file. If they match, access is granted. Most fingerprint access control systems, however, need more than just the fingerprint. Many require some token, like a swipe card or proximity fob, along with a password.
Some systems may also be set up with a digital camera to snap a picture of the person requesting access. In this way, the fingerprint access control system becomes much harder, although not impossible, to defeat.
Can your business benefit from fingerprint access control?
Many businesses can find a good use for fingerprint access control systems. Some industry examples may include:
- Businesses that keep financial records or employee personal information in a locked room.
- Businesses with data servers or rooms full of expensive or fragile equipment.
- Government offices or medical laboratories with stringent security requirements.
While the cost of these systems has been prohibitive for many small businesses in the past, they're becoming more affordable as the technology matures and becomes more widespread. Fingerprint scanning is even growing as a popular trend in schools and academic institutions throughout the US in light of recent school shootings.
In fact, the technology has become so mainstream that personal computer keyboards can now be purchased for less than $100 to include fingerprint scanners. Industrial fingerprint door locks for single doors can be purchased for less than $200, with complete systems, fully customizable, available at additional cost.
While the price tag may be more expensive than standard door access systems, fingerprint scanners, with their high degree of reliability, extra security, and other features, make them a good bet for the future, as well as a logical choice today.
There's one thing to keep in mind when researching and purchasing any type of access control system -especially one as advanced (and expensive) as a fingerprint access control system - and that is to be cautious and do your research.
Don't just buy the first solution you find: take time to make a good buying decision. Start with free price quotes from multiple access control vendors and you'll be on your way to betting the right system for your business.