eSSL Biometric Secuwatch

August 12, 2008

Leading player in Attendance, Access, CCTV, Fire Safety Solutions industry




September 23, 2007

Biometric Fingerprint Time Clocks

Buddy punching—not the violent connotation, but equally malicious and punishable under most corporate guidelines on proper employee behavior—is the practice of cheating time clocks by punching in the attendance card or swiping the ID of a co-worker in his absence.

Attendance monitoring used to mean endless paperwork, sifting though documents and manual computation. That has changed with the onslaught of biometric fingerprint time clocks that have high-tech applications but simple implementation.

There are several brands in the market, and they offer basically the same features, although some may be a bit more sophisticated (they allow several program schemes adaptable per employee specifications). A device can be programmed to quickly identify special work-schedule arrangements made for certain employees, for example.

A biometric fingerprint time clock generally is composed of three major components that make it work: scanner (on which one places a finger for the print to be scanned); software (that transforms the scanned information into digital format); and database (where authorized fingerprints are stored in digital format).

Biometric fingerprint time clocks may be installed on each side of a door to facilitate close monitoring of employee ins and outs. The biometric clock is wired into the door latch, allowing it to mechanically open and shut it. But if it’s just attendance monitoring you desire, one unit for your whole office may suffice. A device is capable of storing large amounts of data.

Once installed, you will have to get each employee to register a fingerprint. You may need to have your IT (information technology) employees help you with this. They will create a master list of names and their corresponding fingerprints. Additional programming is needed for flexi-time employees who do not subscribe to the general work-schedule hours.

After completing the database, the device ready. Employees will only need to put a finger on the scanning interface of the time clock. The print will be processed, and if it matches an image stored in the database, the door will open mechanically. If not, access will be denied; there’s no prying open the door or getting around the system.


September 15, 2007

UK to outsource biometric visa checks to Mumbai

The UK is to outsource visa application checks “wherever there is an outsource partner”, following trials in its largest visa posts in Mumbai, Delhi and Islamabad. This process, which will be implemented alongside the introduction of biometrics for all visa applications, is intended to cover at least 60 per cent of an annual total of 2.5 million applications by 2008, saving £3.7 million via a reduction of “46 staff years per year”.

The cunning outsourcing plan by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, which handles overseas visa applications, will be implemented as the UK Passport Office tightens security via the introduction of biometrics and by requiring new (and subsequently all) passport applicants attend a personal interview. Which could, one speculates, result in a country it was a hell of a lot easier to get into than out of, but the outsourcing partners will, we feel sure, be thoroughly vetted.

The process, the FCO tells us, “cost just £35,000 to develop” (did they outsource this too?) and allows UK visa staff to advise the outsourcing partner what information is needed. The partner then collects this from the application, puts it into electronic format and passes it on to the British Mission. As biometrics are rolled out, outsourcing partners are likely to deal with this too. “From our experience of fingerprinting in a variety of posts in East Africa,” says the FCO, “we have learned that we can safely scan fingerprints within our outsourced operations.”

The decision to fingerprint all visa applicants was taken after “the success of the Colombo fingerprinting trial in 2003”, which as we noted at the time was so ‘successful that it caught a maximum of xxx fraudsters. In common with other UK Government departments, the FCO claims that the UK “is committed by EU regulations to introducing biometrics into the worldwide visa operation” – as far as the FCO is concerned this is sort of, nearly true, but not quite, and the FCO’s current visa plans are rather different from what it will have to do if it ever really is “committed by EU regulations”.

The EU’s visa plans aren’t directly connected to its biometric passports ones, nor do they directly connect to the FCO ones. European ministers intended to have a blueprint for the introduction of biometric visas in place by the end of last year, but the discovery that the plans didn’t work put things up in the air. Ministers still intend to go ahead with biometric visas, and a trial of a separate visa card is commencing, but as far as we’re aware the European Parliament hasn’t yet been blackmailed into rubber-stamping a firmed-up scheme.

That however is neither here nor there as far as what the FCO is doing is concerned. The European system is intended to be part of the Schengen II/Visa Information System database network, with the biometric visa itself available for checking via standard border control equipment on entry to the EU. The FCO system fingerprints visa applicants in order to give the UK the capability to check for duplicate applications. The EU system means the subject of the visa carries their biometric data with them, whereas the UK’s doesn’t. If the UK is to participate in the EU system then the FCO will have to upgrade (if that’s the word) its plans and issue whatever the EU decides on, either a sticker in the passport or a separate card, probably the latter.

The FCO’s claim to be committed by regulations therefore appears to be based on its pretending that the UK is a signatory to Schengen when it really isn’t. The FCO explains the Schengen position here, so we don’t have to, but the UK’s attitude to Schengen can probably best be summed up as one of being in for the bits we like, but out for the bits we don’t. How ‘in’ we are on this one might turn out to be less clear than is immediately apparent.

Matters will be further complicated if the UK ID scheme flies. Those resident in the UK for over three months will be required to register for a card, so might this process take place via an overseas office on the granting of visas for over three months? How, if at all, will the current/planned FCO system intersect with the ID scheme, or with Europe’s VIS or a European ID card for non-EU residents?

The FCO claims it will cost £77 million to handle 2.5 million biometric visa applications, and our anonymous tipster for this story suggests this might imply a one-off cost of around £1.8 billion for biometric capture of the entire UK, but we’re not so sure. It’s not clear how much of the FCO cost is capital investment or the annual cost of the system, and what the FCO is planning isn’t necessarily comparable to the Home Office’s ID plans. Unless the FCO intends to maintain its own system in splendid, stripped-down isolation, however, we’d expect the actual cost to climb as the need for compatibility with the other systems increases.

Foreign Minister Jack Straw did not however like the ID scheme in the first place, so may not be willing to bust a gut to keep step with it now, particularly given heartening news that Ireland (another non-Schengen country) may junk biometric passports, and that the US might be about to conclude that biometric passports aren’t nearly as much fun as it initially thought.


September 4, 2007

Biometrics and “Return On Investment”


At this time of tight budgets, the mantra of business is “Return On Investment!” With few exceptions, expenditures are measured against the bottom line. Outlays for capital expenses are strictly evaluated in terms of profitability and the total cost of ownership. The era of purchasing new gadgets due to their “whiz-bang” factor is long gone. How can biometrics provide the sought after “R.O.I.” in this environment?

A biometric hand reader prevents a felon from entering your office or warehouse. Can this preventive measure be assigned a dollar amount? A fingerprint scan stops an unauthorized person from gaining access to your computer system. Can a value be determined?

Confusion about the cost benefits of implementing biometric technology has several origins. For example, a business may have never conducted an audit of its critical data and physical assets. This lapse may cause them to have no idea of their value if those assets are lost or compromised. A company may also be unaware of its down-stream liability if their negligence results in damage to other firms or individuals. The costs of the resulting legal consequences and liability can often be overlooked.

In fairness to many businesses, it is difficult to assign a cost to these types of issues because they represent an uncertain, and hopefully unlikely, eventuality. However, as remote as that eventuality may seem, every day many firms face stunning financial losses due to theft, fraud and legal settlements.

Are there areas of the enterprise that can clearly show the profitability of adopting biometric solutions? Predictably, the greatest profits are realized in the applications that are considered the strongest for biometrics: “system access.”

High on the list of frustrations for many companies is the plague of password problems surrounding their information systems. Denial of access, expired and forgotten passwords, log-on failures and other fiascos affect productivity and consume help desk resources. Biometrics can offer a cost effective cure for this dilemma. A formula for evaluating the R.O.I. can be roughly determined using a simple legal pad. A survey is conducted to determine the amount of time the help desk spends on password and access problems during the course of their day. After collecting this data for 30 days, calculate the percentage of hours spent on access issues against the total hours of help desk operation. This will provide a general baseline for determining the cost of these issues. For some firms it will be miniscule, but for other companies it may loom large and need attention. Surprisingly, many surveys reveal that approximately 30% of help desk resources are devoted to access and authentication issues. Estimated costs can then be calculated by evaluating the help desk’s time spent addressing these problems. If it is 20% of daily activity, for example, calculate that percent as a dollar amount of the total help desk cost. Over the course of a year, it would not be uncommon to have an annual recurring charge of $200 to $300 per employee for access issues. This dollar drain does not even consider that the hours dedicated to these repetitive tasks could be better spent elsewhere by the I.T. staff. This diversion of time and talent results in a double impact on the bottom line.

The introduction of a biometric access solution can provide benefits on different levels often resulting in reduced expenses and stronger authentication. For example, fingerprint-scanning devices for access to data and computer systems are now being adopted in greater numbers. The costs of this hardware and its supporting software can vary from an inexpensive simple fingerprint pad reader or biometric mouse to more comprehensive enterprise solutions involving the use of resident servers or licensing arrangements. A key factor in the business decision to install these technologies is to consider carefully the one-time expense for these applications and hardware versus the ongoing costs of maintaining a current system of access support with its annual and repetitive expenses.

In summary, by utilizing biometric technology to effectively deal with the issue of control and access, the enterprise may create a system that provides safer and more secure authentication at a greater savings to the bottom line- a true case of a better “R.O.I.”

Terrence F. DohenyPresident/CEOBeyond If Solutions, LLC

Terrence Doheny is President and CEO of Beyond If Solutions which provides advanced technologies for access control and information security for the individual and the enterprise.


August 28, 2007

Biometric cash machines bring joy


Mahendra Sahni

Mahendra Sahni can now collect his money without wasting time [Pics: Prashant Ravi]

These days Mahendra Sahni, a daily wage worker in India’s most backward state of Bihar, struts up to a gleaming new cash machine in his village to withdraw his hard earned money.

The middle-aged, illiterate fish farmer from Vaishali district makes about 2,000 rupees a month ($44).

For years he used to waste nearly a day getting to the bank and queuing up to get his wages.

Now, when he inserts a cash card into the machine, he is greeted with an voice instruction in Hindi: “Please put your thumb on the specified space.”

When he does that, crisp currency notes roll out of the machine with the voice saying, “Your cash is ready. Please accept it.”

Sahni and 14 other poor daily wage workers from Vaishaligarh and neighbouring areas are among the first villagers in Bihar to have access to biometric cash machines to withdraw their money.

“This shows how science has made progress and can be used for poor village people like us,” says Sahni.

The biometric cash machines are custom-made for people who cannot read or write and use features like fingerprint verification and voice guided animated screens and easy navigation.

The federal government has now announced that everybody in Vaishali employed under its ambitious new National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme will get their wages through these new cash machines.

The scheme promises some 60 million households in India a level of financial protection through guaranteed work or unemployment benefit.

Banking made easy

For the moment, the cash machine run by the state-run Central Bank of India, is targeting some 210 daily wage workers in the area.

“It is basically for poor workers like Sahni who cannot read or write their names. Banking for them will become easy with these cash machines,” says the bank’s local manager Pranay Kumar.

Biometric cash machine in Vaishali, Bihar

Biometric cash machines promise to change banking in rural India

The biometric cash machines work through a series of processes.

First, the fingerprint of an account holder is captured through a scanner at the time of the opening of the account.

A template is created for each fingerprint and stored in the cash card given to the customer.

When Sahni goes to the cash machine and inserts the cash card, his fingerprint is captured using an inbuilt scanner and it is matched with the impression stored in the cash card.

Central Bank’s executive director K Subramanyam says biometric devices will go a long way in offering banking services in India’s villages where 70% of its people live.

Payment through cash machines will also protect the workers from local contractors who routinely extract a cut from their wages in return of getting them on the list of government employment schemes.

For the moment, Sahni and his neighbours are happy to have discovered a hassle-free way of withdrawing their meagre savings.

The entire procedure of cycling to the branch and going through the paperwork with help from others and waiting in the queue for the money took up valuable work time.

The other day, he picked up 1,000 rupees in five minutes flat from the cash machine and cycled back home to begin work again.

“Withdrawing money couldn’t be a better experience,” he says.

August 25, 2007

Biometric IDs for Slum Dwellers – Biometrics Fingerprint solution in Maharastra Mumbai Pune India


Land sharks in this city don’t spare even slum dwellers it seems…

Which explains why the Maharashtra government has decided to bring in a biometric ID system specially for slum dwellers, to protect them from the greedy bunch.

Reportedly, the identification system is meant for only those slum dwellers in Mumbai, who come under the purview of the state-sponsored slum re-development project.

The government has taken the decision subsequent to receiving several complaints that alleged slum dwellers being enticed into giving up their property to real estate developers, looking to start illegal construction on these plots of land.

Swadhin Kshatriya, Principal Secretary of the State Housing Department, said, “The move to bring in the biometric identification system comes in the wake of several cases filed by slum dwellers, who have complained that their plots are being developed without their consent.”

“Initially, the identification process will be introduced in schemes approved by the state Slum Re-development Authority (SRA). This will help us reduce the number of complaints to a great extent,” Kshatriya said.

Under the biometric ID system, a unique number will be created for each beneficiary. And the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has reportedly already started digitizing city maps to ascertain the authenticity of slum dwellers’ claims for accomodation under the SRA scheme.

In future, the biometric system will be introduced for the Dharavi Redevelopment Scheme, and redevelopment of BDD ‘chawls’ spread across South Central Mumbai.

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