Bringing Biometrics to Campus

Biometric security solutions are gearing up to capture greater market share and make physical access control systems (PACS) in education more secure.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered the “normal” operational practices that educational facilities previously operated under. With much of the world still in recovery mode, students and staff are still primarily engaged in virtual and/or hybrid learning, leaving campus officials with a finite window of time to consider and implement strategic security solutions that establish a “new normal” to better protect everyone on campus.

The post-COVID-19 normal will forever impact the campus environment and security strategies will largely be centered toward several key initiatives, including people counting, occupancy controls, temperature screening, contact tracing, and reducing office touch points. Many legacy security systems are now being re-evaluated to allow for touch-less or frictionless access control — a move designed to eliminate the need for employees, visitors, and students to physically touch a surface when using an access control system. Though upgrading outdated technologies is historically a cumbersome and expensive process, there is a better solution. Enter: biometrics.

The global biometrics market is forecast to reach $82.8 billion by 2027, growing at a 19.3% CAGR from an estimated $24.1 billion in 2020 – an impressive feat considering the relative newness of the technology. While the biggest factor driving this demand is the pandemic, which has increased the focus on “contactless” identification and access control solutions, the increasing transition to the cloud, partnerships with dealers and customers, and the total solution offered by biometrics have also played a part.

We’re seeing biometrics be adopted across many verticals, concentrated in higher security areas – hospitals, data centers, federal government, critical infrastructure, banking, and more. For instance, airport facial recognition implementations continue to roll out every day; contactless biometric bank card applications are on the rise, and we’re even seeing the advance of biometric smart cards for digital identity and payments. When it comes to security and access control, touch-less workplace solutions are in high demand to track and record access, as well as restrict access to only the right people at the right time.

What About Biometrics in Educational Facilities?

In education, it’s becoming more and more critical to adopt security measures that can ascertain a person’s identity without simply relying on the possession of an ID card. Biometrics technology, at its core, prevents a common concern among university campuses in which a person comes in possession of someone else’s ID card, granting them access to data they shouldn’t have or to an area they shouldn’t be in. Verifying an individual’s fingerprint or facial features to authenticate their identity is the most effective way to maintain students’ and staff members’ safety.

For campuses concerned about costs, there is good news – facial recognition isn't expensive to add to existing security solutions, and in many cases, it's coming almost for free, with good cameras becoming more pervasive and facial algorithms getting better at off-angle, off-lighting recognition. Additionally, despite some voiced concerns surrounding contact biometric technologies in light of the pandemic, fingerprint recognition will continue as an additive, either as a lower friction option, new installation, or multi-bio-factor authentication.

Privacy Concerns

While biometric authentication is convenient and gaining traction among most, some privacy advocates say that biometric security leaves the door open for unauthorized access to personal data. But think about it this way: biometrics are already a part of our everyday lives. Facial and/or fingerprint recognition is used to unlock phones, tag friends in social media photos, and when going through security at the airport.

Biometric identification isn’t going away – on the contrary, the demand is growing. However, this doesn’t mean that concerns are unsubstantiated; privacy concerns and identity-based threats are valid issues that must be addressed before widespread adoption will take place.

With hackers and those with malicious intent becoming more sophisticated in their approaches every day, proactive security solutions can veil a user’s identity during data collection, making the biometric system much more difficult to hack. Additionally, using multi-factor authentication helps circumvent fraud attempts and keep consumers’ data safe from threats.

Whether educational facilities are deploying campus-wide access control, managing ID badging, or gathering real-time video intelligence, biometric security solutions enable schools to feel confident that the people on campus all belong there.

This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.

About the Author

Steve Humphreys is CEO of Identiv Inc.


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