Biometric technology – maintenance of equipment and databases vital to secure investment, mitigate risk

Biometric technology has become an integral part of many of the access control, security, asset protection and risk management systems commonly used by businesses today.

July 10, 2012

By Kobus Le Roux, National Sales & Marketing Executive, Jasco Security Solutions

Biometric technology has become an integral part of many of the access control, security, asset protection and risk management systems commonly used by businesses today. The benefits are significant, not just in terms of security, but for enablement of related business processes, like time an attendance. Unfortunately, a biometrics solution is only ever as good as the weakest link in the system. Maintenance – of the database, networks, doors, locks, readers, cameras and related systems and applications that support or are controlled by the biometrics solution – is vital. 

Failure of any component in the biometrics system can compromise the security of assets, operations, the safety of personnel and the accuracy of reporting systems. The risk to business, and its bottom line, can be considerable over time.

There are two key considerations. Accurate setup and configuration of the hardware, software and network components are very important, but you can’t “set and forget”. Similarly, once the physical components are installed and integrated, a “break-fix” approach to ensuring the system is functioning optimally is not acceptable if the risk profile that these systems facilitate is to be maintained.

Setup and clean up

Successful setup of a biometrics system hinges first and foremost on accurate registration of unique identifiers – e.g., fingerprint or iris scans – that are entered into a database. If the registration process is faulty, the system will deliver false positives or erratically deny access. Administration of the database also needs to be meticulous – much like other access control technologies, if someone leaves the company or their status changes, the database must be updated and ‘cleaned’. This is crucial as biometrics databases usually have a limit to the number of registrations they can efficiently process. Exceed this and the system slows down, stalls and begins to fail, affecting operational and productivity efficiencies and increasing risk.

Wear and tear also has an impact, even if your readers have the toughest (IP66 ruggedised) rating. To put use of biometrics systems into perspective, consider that a larger corporate building may see 3000 to 4000 transactions per day and a large mining operation may see hundreds of transactions over a single shift change.

All the physical components that make up the system need to be regularly assessed for mechanical or other failure. If the biometrics reader gets grimy or is damaged — through use or exposure to harsh environments or the elements (rain, dust, heat) – it can literally collapse the entire system. Biometrics secured access is also of little use if the door granting access has faulty locking units. In addition, network access and reliability, including quality of service, need to be regularly reviewed to ensure the biometrics system and all the processes it enables (access, time and attendance) can operate and respond efficiently.

Maintenance optimises performance

Regular maintenance every three months – or as often as use demands – could eliminate these challenges and extend the life of the system. To also optimise the performance of the system it is crucial, however, to appoint a service provider with the appropriate technical skills and insight.

The ideal partner for such maintenance is a company that understands, and has broad experience of installation and management of biometric technology and related systems – access control, CCTV, alarms, etc — across a variety of industries (corporate, manufacturing, mining, transport, public sector) and technology platforms. This partner should have a track record and qualified staff and most of all be flexible to attend to your specific maintenance needs.

A maintenance agreement of this sort should include doing the necessary diagnostics on all systems, critically assessing the network, the database, environmental factors, and the impact of other devices on the biometrics and related systems. The service provider should also be able to proactively address or make provision for changes in organisational processes, infrastructure and personnel. Identified challenges would need to then be addressed in a way that improves overall performance.

As technology becomes increasingly part of physical operations, it’s easy to overlook the fact both technology and physical maintenance is needed and that service providers offering such maintenance need to have both skills. Maintenance to biometrics systems is becoming non-negotiable as companies increasingly come to understand how this can impact mission critical processes and affect the effective and efficient operations of extended systems. Don’t get caught short.