Adopting biometrics? Then keep your hands dirty

Adopting biometrics? Then keep your hands dirty

Summary: Brief: A Gartner analyst at the company's security conference in London today pointed out some of the problems involved with implementing biometrics technology - like clean hands

TOPICS: Security
A Gartner analyst at the company's IT security conference in London on Monday raised an unusual problem with some biometric applications.

Research director for the firm Ant Allan said that in some cases the technology is failing to work because people's hands are too clean - just one example of the gap between the way vendors position biometric technology, and its application in the real world.

"It's a cause of frustration in healthcare because staff wash their hands so often the biometric reader cannot scan them," he said. "This could also be applied to people in the office who handle lots of paper."

Allan said that US immigration officials have had to start asking travellers to wipe their fingers behind their ears to put some moisture on their fingers before using fingerprint scanners.

He added that retinal scanners can also be unreliable on people with long eyelashes.

"Don't rely on vendor results," he said. "It's easy to prove [biometrics] lets the right people in, but harder to prove it stops the wrong people."

Overall Allan expressed caution over making too big an initial investment into biometric security kit.

"Be sure that biometrics is right for you. Perhaps a limited rather than a full-scale deployment will be successful," he said.

Topic: Security

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  • To whom it may concern,

    Identix's [IDNX-Nasdaq listed] patented moisture discrimination technology that has recently been made available on their scanning technology eliminates the "clean hands" problem. It also addresses the greasy, sweaty or wet hands problem. I thought you would like to know that before you lumped Identix into the group that can't handle "clean hands".

    Darrell E. Smith
    Biometric Homeland Security Specialist
  • ZDnet,
    Additional comment on subject of "clean hands". The "IT" biometrics market that you are addressing is still in a nascent stage. When the Federal Government releases its new Biometric Standards for "IT applications" then you will see the "IT" biometric market accelerate. These new standards are planned to be developed to make it possible for secure transactions and communications between the Federal Government and its suppliers / vendors. We are at least 1 year away from these Federal "IT" biometric standards. The real vibrant and explosive market for biometrics currently is the Govenment Forensic ID Market for passports, and visas, etc. It is in this area that Identix has the patented moisture discrimination technology. You can expect this moisture discrimination technology along with "liveness" technology to migrate to the computer "IT" and physical access biometric markets when they have interoperable standards in place. President Bush has recently penned the letter that will mandate these standards. You can find his "electronic and information security" mandate on the website.
  • "It's a cause of frustration in healthcare because staff wash their hands so often the biometric reader cannot scan them,"

    you know here in the UK we have MRSA because our nurses and doctors do not wash their hands!
  • Ant Allen ought to do his homework before making gross generalizations about "biometrics". As with all emerging technologies, there are both god and bad products, good and bad implementations. To say that all biometrics - finger is one of many - or even that all finger scan biometrics - they come in various flavors: optical, silicon, ultrasound, etc wth offerings from a range of vendors - do not work demonstrates a lack of understanding of the current state of the industry. I am an independent biometric industry analyst and have confidence that given well defined requirements for a specific environment, biometrics may or may not be an appropriate component of an IT security solution. but ought not to be dismissed outright.
  • Max ought to

    (a) Learn to spell people