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Biometric technology has had some downsides. You’ve no doubt seen fingerprint readers that don’t read fingerprints; iris and retina scanners with high failure rates and hefty price tags; and movies in which the bad guys take a body part to use for authentication.
Fortunately for the IT department, the Fujitsu PalmSecure system has none of these problems, real or imagined. This biometric device reads the pattern of veins below the skin surface of the palm. The vein pattern is detectable only if there’s blood flowing through the hand at the time. And because the device is touch-free, skin residue and body temperature don’t interfere with this hygienic means of authentication.
Regardless of the implementation, the Fujitsu PalmSecure is unintrusive and secure. To use the device, whether it’s to log on to a computer or gain access to a secure space, you simply place your hand two inches above the camera surface and hold it there briefly — that’s it. The PalmSecure device comes with a plastic training support so that new users can learn how and where to position their palm.
Once a person’s palm is registered, the palm data and identifying information is stored in a secure database.
Implementing a good biometric identification system often results in seemingly endless headaches. Depending on the system, you may need to purchase hardware that can be temperamental and take weeks to integrate. In some cases, false rejections are a continuous problem. And getting the device to work is only half the battle — you still have to integrate the biometric solution with the rest of your security system.
PalmSecure avoids most of the problems associated with biometrics by offering a secure, effective product. The device comes in three forms. One model is designed for building security and can withstand adverse environments. There’s also a stand-alone reader that looks like a black cube, and there’s a mouse with an embedded reader. I tested the mouse.
The building security model is able to interface with most building security systems and can be used to approve access and unlock doors. The stand-alone model is useful for routine identification in almost any circumstance that requires reliable identification. The mouse version is useful for computer logins and single sign-on applications. Fujitsu includes single sign-on software with the mouse.
Fujitsu also provides a registration program that lets you enroll users and verify their identity. It’s not designed for high-volume applications, but it’s good for getting started. Fujitsu can also provide APIs and specific applications for more demanding uses.
A second advantage for IT staff is that the palm readers require little if any maintenance. There’s no touching, so there’s no need to clean residue from the device. The basic reader has no moving parts, so there’s nothing to wear out. False positives and false rejections are extremely few, so this is a security tool that doesn’t need constant attention.
The only potential stumbling block is that you have to know whether you’re installing the device on a machine with 32-bit Windows or 64-bit Windows. If you don’t know, you can right-click on the Computer icon and select “Properties.” Then you can install the 32-bit or 64-bit drivers as needed.
Biometric devices work well because they use something that the person being identified always has available, whether it’s a finger, an iris, their face or the palm of their hand.
On the low end, devices don’t always work. At the other end of the scale are devices such as whole-hand readers for highly secure spaces. Though extremely effective, these solutions cost a lot — far too much to be used for routine identification.
A device such as the Fujitsu PalmSecure takes the cost and unreliability issues out of the biometric equation by allowing quick, touch-free identification at a low cost. These devices are highly effective, but inexpensive enough to be used for library checkout systems. This is the direction that biometric authentication needs to go — something that doesn’t impact the day-to-day workflow, but is still highly secure and reliable.