Biometric Access Control has increasingly become a focal point in discussions about secure and efficient identification and authentication. The growing interest has been driven by digital credential trends and the pandemic, as well as ongoing demands for greater security and convenience.
Recent advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are raising the accuracy and reliability of all biometric applications, further supporting adoption and market growth.
Unlike traditional access control methods that employ smart cards, Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) devices, or passwords, biometric systems offer a level of security and convenience that is unparalleled in the market.
By leveraging our unique biological traits such as fingerprints, facial features, or iris patterns, biometric security essentially transforms your body into the "key" that controls access. You can’t forget your fingerprints at home or leave your face on the train by mistake, making it the ultimate form of access control in many ways.
“Biometrics are steadily becoming easier to integrate with existing infrastructure through open standards. With proper implementation, biometrics can seamlessly integrate with or replace legacy access control solutions, while hybrid approaches combining biometrics with traditional solutions can also help the transition,” our new research explains.
“Each biometric modality has its own merits and limitations. While fingerprint recognition is praised for its reliability and ease of use, newer contactless modalities such as facial recognition are gaining attention.”
The Fall of Fingerprint-based Biometric Access Control
Despite the growth of the biometric access control market, as a whole, we have seen a relative decline in demand for fingerprint technology, which was once and probably still is the symbol of biometric security. Fingerprint access control was gradually gaining traction in the 2010s, boosted by technological advancements and user acceptance in the smartphone space. However, when the pandemic stuck in 2020, the fingerprint market slumped as touchless technologies took center stage.
“The latest biometric technology developments have been focused on face recognition above all else. When the pandemic struck, fingerprint and other touch-based biometric solutions fell by the wayside and there was an immediate shift to touchless and contactless technology because suddenly no one wanted to touch shared surfaces,” said Shiraz Kapadia, CEO and president of Invixium. “Face recognition became very popular, and in my opinion, it gained almost a decade’s worth of adoption during the pandemic period.”
The Rise of Facial Recognition Biometric Access Control
Facial recognition technology serves as an authentication method in biometric access control systems, providing the ability to convert unique facial features into digital data for verification. The technology identifies or verifies an individual by capturing, analyzing, and comparing patterns based on their unique facial features and cross-referencing it with a database of digital faces. The level of complexity makes it harder to hack compared to traditional systems, while anti-spoofing software and AI systems are being developed to further enhance its security.
While facial recognition systems are generally reliable and accurate, their performance can be affected by various external factors. Changes in ambient lighting, facial hair, and even aging can reduce effectiveness, while other systems like iris scanning require precise physical positioning for accurate results. Moreover, privacy concerns, particularly under legislation like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), also limit the adoption of facial recognition biometric systems for many vertical market applications.
Like fingerprint biometric access control, facial recognition will benefit from the increasing use of facial authentication on smartphones, which should drive user acceptance and technological development. Smartphone-based facial authentication can also be integrated into access control, reducing the need for additional hardware.
With the growing interest in recent years, our Q4 2023 access control market report estimates that facial recognition-based solutions have grown to make up 60% of total biometric access control sales, with fingerprint technology still holding on to most of the remainder.
New Innovations in Biometric Access Control
Beyond fingerprints and facial recognition, a range of new technologies are emerging to serve the growing diversity of biometric access control needs. Our latest analysis finds the biometric access control market is dominated by well-established specialists, security giants, and a select few startups that drive each other to create innovative solutions that might take a share of this highly specialized arena.
IDEMIA and Qualcomm, for example, have each developed advanced imaging systems that capture detailed 3D images of four fingers simultaneously with a single hand wave gesture. Increasingly common in airports around the world, this advancement not only speeds up the authentication process but also offers more data points, thereby improving accuracy and making spoof attacks more difficult.
Iris and retina scanning technologies have carved out a niche in the realm of biometric access control, particularly for high security applications, due to their high accuracy and reliability. There has been strong market adoption in government facilities and data centers, for example, where the demand for robust security measures is paramount. Multimodal biometrics, which combine multiple biological traits for authentication, can offer further additional levels of security for particularly sensitive locations.
Other niche applications explored in the report include voice recognition, hand geometry, and vein matching. Voice recognition technology leverages unique vocal characteristics to authenticate users, but despite ranking high in consumer preference surveys, it has not gained significant traction in commercial access control. Hand geometry measures the physical dimensions of the fingers and the overall hand with simpler hardware but less security.
Vein matching, meanwhile, leverages the unique vascular patterns found either in the palm, finger, or hand as identification. Vein matching is considered highly secure but is yet to gain widespread commercial adoption due to the current high price of hardware. These and other biometric access control technologies will vie for power across the growing niches and general markets that make up the expanding access control landscape.
“Overall, while cautious sentiment persists among some integrators, end user adoption is clearly expanding across sectors. With thoughtful selection, design and deployment, biometrics are transitioning from theory to reality for many organizations pursuing advanced access control security,” reads our brand new security report. “Public education by the industry to highlight actual use benefits versus misconceptions will also support further mainstream adoption.”