Investment in biometric technology is continuously rising as businesses do all they can to reinforce security and protect resources whilst competing in volatile socio-economic conditions, writes Marius Coetzee, chief operations officer at Ideco Biometric Security Solutions (IBSS).

This is a common view shared by specialists within the identity management space, those at the frontline of solution development and rollout. There is most definitely an increase in awareness of what biometric technology is, and how it can be applied to benefit the workplace environment, particularly with regard to security and access control.
Biometric technology includes devices and solutions that are designed to identify people based on unique physical or behavioural traits. In commerce these solutions are being used extensively as part of access control and identity management.
One of the main drivers of this technology in industry is the growing need to protect resources and apply systems in order to regulate "who does what, when, where and how".
The fact is that security is an issue that affects all departments and all staff, and is therefore something that everyone in a business has to be cognisant of. Businesses are all aware of the fact that the majority of threats to the security of a company originates from within an organisation itself. Global research testifies to this.
Security today is not only about guarding networks against cyber attacks and physical access control; it is about understanding the critical requirements of each and every aspect of a business operation.
The use of fingerprint technology, such as readers, is prevalent within the market. IBSS has more that sixty thousand fingerprint readers in use in the market at present. At the same time, there is also a growing interest in new technology, such as facial recognition.
This is gaining popularity as an accurate and expedient method of identification. The fact that over two-million people in South Africa are regulated in terms of access on a daily basis affirms this.
Biometric value for both private and public sectors
Biometric infrastructure has also been in use within government departments for years. Examples include forensic police work, the Department of Home Affairs and its Home Affairs National Identification System (HANIS) and the population register, as well as the Department of Social Development for the payment of grants.
The digitisation of South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs’ paper-based fingerprint records is still the largest project of its kind in the world – involving the conversion of some 40-million paper-based fingerprint records to an electronic format, enabling biometric verification in the department. In 2005, biometrics was introduced in the social grant system.
Beware the hype
Whilst there is no denying the impact that biometric technology continues to have on business, it is important to be aware of the perils of buying into the hype surrounding this technology.
Yes there are certainly benefits to using this technology. Automation, accuracy, data storage and ease-of-use are just a few.
However, the reality is that there is a push to lower costs, make the technology more mobile and less intrusive. This is not a solution that works in every environment irrespective of the nature of the business. It could easily add more frustration to the process that benefit. Issues like privacy also continue to influence the adoption and application of the technology.
There are genuine benefits to this infrastructure, if it is suited to the nature and requirements of the business in which it is being implemented.
One of the core messages IBSS wants to get across to the market is that credible biometric infrastructure is a reliable, affordable and an effective replacement of traditional forms of identification, including cards, PINs and passwords.
Identification by biometrics is a definitive way to link an identity to whatever transaction the person is carrying out. A fingerprint cannot be forgotten, stolen or hacked like a password can. When a fingerprint is used to authorise a transaction, that evidence will stand up in court whereas a forgotten password would not.
Biometric technology is one of the fastest growing areas in the field of IT security system and identity management solutions.
IBSS believes as ICT systems and networks grow in complexity, and threats emerge, this area of technology development will remain at the forefront of security.
The fact is that decision makers understand that risk management and security has implication and impact on every level of operation within a business.