Biometrics may seem like a thing of the future, but for some companies, the future is now.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. The point of a business is to make as much money as possible while also keeping costs low. Biometrics can do just that by helping business owners track their employees and pay them only for the time they’re working.
Here is a look at what biometrics are and how we might see many businesses adopt them soon.
What Are Biometrics?
The simple definition of biometrics is the ability to identify an individual using some sort of biological cue. The most widespread version of this is fingerprints.
Other biometric possibilities include iris recognition, facial recognition, voice recognition, vein pattern recognition, and hand geometry recognition.
Biometrics are generally split into two groups, physiological and behavioral. Physiological biometrics includes things such as fingerprint recognition and iris recognition, while behavioral includes the likes of voice-pattern recognition and keystroke dynamics.
How Biometrics Help
For businesses, biometrics can help owners more accurately track when employees are present and working. Since each employee needs to provide his or her own fingerprint, voice, iris or whatever it may be, biometrics are good for preventing time and attendance fraud in the workplace.
For one, biometrics can put an end to buddy punching. This is when a worker clocks in and/or out for another person who might be late or doesn’t make it to work to begin with. The problem can be significant. A study by a human resources consulting outfit showed that even small-time fraud and errors in payroll could increase operating costs by up to 10 percent.
In this case, iris-based biometrics are the best long-term solution. Things such as weight change, a new hairstyle, or cuts on a hand or finger can affect various biometric readers. This may mean employees have to re-enroll to ensure their biometric data is up to date. With iris-based solutions, however, this is never the case.
Using the technology is a way to save both time and money, much like how we’ve seen the shift to storing health information in the cloud. This is crucial in the health care field. Some 87 percent of physicians say they believe it’s either very or extremely important to have access to a member’s medical records, but 65 percent indicate they don’t have complete access.
In fact, only 36 percent of those surveyed are completely satisfied with the availability of client data under current systems.
Companies can use biometrics in a variety of ways. One example might be using fingerprints instead of passwords, similar to modern smartphones.
Biometrics can be used for other purposes as well, including secure payments and access to secure data. As it stands, the majority of employees log into their computer or access company information by using a traditional password. However, some 89 percent of employees say they use the same or similar passwords at work as they do on their personal devices. That’s not exactly a secure situation.
Things are changing rapidly, however. For example, fingerprint and iris recognition is an available feature in Microsoft’s Windows 10. This makes sensitive data much more secure. It’s relatively easy for a character-based password to fall into the wrong hands, but it’s not really possible to steal someone’s fingerprint or iris — outside of futuristic action-spy movies, of course.
One company in Sweden has gone as far as implanting microchips in the hands of willing employees. This allows workers to get into secure locations or make purchases by simply waving their hand. This isn’t exactly biometrics, but it’s similar. Rather than using the physical attributes of their bodies, employees instead use an embedded chip as their access keys.
Another cool real-world example comes from Wells Fargo. The company’s Commercial Electronic Office app uses eye-vein biometrics for users to access their information. It doesn’t end there — for an additional layer of authentication, the app uses voice-recognition technology from SpeechPro.
That means any device with a front-facing camera and a microphone is capable of biometric two-factor authentication.
Widespread Use Inevitable
In the end, biometrics simply make sense in the workplace, particularly as the technology advances. Data access and physical security will both benefit, since every single employee has unique biometric properties.
Also, similar to Wells Fargo’s CEO app, dual biometric authentication is a relatively simple solution to improve security exponentially. Think about it — it might be rare, but you can imagine a scenario in which a fingerprint reader or voice-recognition software fails in certain situations. However, the odds of two separate biometric systems failing simultaneously are astronomical.
Knowing this, and as biometric technology becomes more ubiquitous and affordable, it won’t be long before many more businesses implement these solutions.
Kayla Matthews is a health IT and technology writer whose work has appeared on Motherboard, VentureBeat, MakeUseOf and BioMed Central. To read more posts from Kayla, check out her blog.