Biometric Security: Intelligent Home Defense?

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Home security systems are rapidly becoming more complex. While blaring alarms and motion detectors still remain as essential features of most home protection setups, owners are now able to activate their system via smartphones, view remote video feeds and even unlock doors from a distance.

But a new trend is emerging. Known as biometric security, the concept revolves around using your body’s unique characteristics — eyes, fingerprints and even the way you walk — as a means of identification. Biometric options offer the promise of near-perfect accuracy combined with utter simplicity — can they really deliver?

Biometric Security: Hands Up!

Fingerprints are the most common type of biometric security measure. Not only large corporations and military institutions, but even child care centers rely on portable fingerprint reader technology to make sure no one gets past the entry door without permission. Consumers at large are also getting more comfortable with the idea of having their fingerprints taken on a regular basis to help improve security. Consider the iPhone 5, for example, which included a fingerprint scanner as part of its locking mechanism.

As a result, affordable home security systems are starting to emerge which feature fingerprint readers and fingerprint key fobs. If you have a higher budget, you might also consider a whole-hand scanner, which can be deployed as part of a network or as a stand-alone option. While it’s possible to doctor a single fingerprint with some effort, replicating the topography of an entire hand is nearly impossible.

Eye Spy

Retinal scanning technology has been on the market for over a decade. First-generation scanners, however, were extremely expensive and required users to stand still for long periods of time to capture reliable data, making them a last resort for many businesses. Now, security companies have developed technology which allows high definition iris scanning at a distance and while on the move. The result? Doors that open faster and do so only for approved visitors.

This type of biometric security is most often used by large corporations or in venues with high visitor throughput, but these scanners are now being adapted for home use as well. They offer several benefits over fingerprint security. First, they have a much higher accuracy rate than fingerprints and are almost impossible to fool. Second, the only data recorded is an HD scan of your eye, which is then compared with a list of approved users. No other physical or personal data is required.

Walk This Way

Taking things a step farther are companies like Israeli-based FST21. Headed by former general Aharon Farkash, the biometric security firm has created a scanning system small enough that appears to be no more than a regular security camera, but can gather detail on your face, voice, build and stride before you get anywhere near a secure door. If you’re not in the database, the door won’t open — if you are, doors can be unlocked in less than two seconds because the system spots you coming. If you’re having guests over who aren’t in the system, just enter their personal details and send their smartphone a QR code. When they arrive, they hold their phone up to the scanner and are granted entry.

Farkash says the system is entirely self-contained, meaning it doesn’t rely on external Internet connections to pull data or identify users. As a result, it should be very difficult to hack or fool. Several apartment buildings in New York and schools in Israel already use the system; in New York, apartments with the system installed have seen a 50-percent drop in reports of unauthorized visitors. FST21 argues that biometric security systems must be both simple and effective to spur widespread adoption — consumers want accuracy, but many are frustrated by complex security deployments and seemingly infinite sets of commands.

Biometric options are largely in their infancy for home security, but are starting to make some inroads as homeowners look for simple, accurate ways to keep their families safe. Fingerprint readers, retinal scanners and total-body detection systems each offer a unique way to increase security, and are no longer prohibitively expensive. Bottom line? Unique prints, eyes and faces make humans walking keys—home security companies are now finding ways to design the right locks with biometric security.

Photo Credit: Aaron Parecki

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