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Access Control: How to Get the Optimal User Experience

We’ve all seen the action espionage movies in which organizations’ security is breached –either for good or for evil. Perhaps the criminal was able to crack the passcode with the use of technology, or by shining a blue light to see which keys were pressed most frequently. Or perhaps the good guys were able to obtain the ID card of an unsuspecting employee to gain access to a corporate facility. In the most gruesome cases, the villains do nothing short of removing someone’s eyeball to gain iris scan access.


That’s Hollywood. But the truth is, the real world isn’t so different.


The various methods for secure access identification include three options:

  • What you have
  • What you know
  • Who you are


To ascertain which method will be the right one for your needs, you should have an understanding of a) The level of security offered by each option, and b) The solution that provides the best user experience.


Let’s take them one-by-one so that we can understand them better:


What You Have

This is often the most popular choice – employees have ID cards or key fobs that they scan to gain entrance. This identification is based on RFID technology. Despite this option’s popularity, it does not provide a high level of security. The system is only aware of the identity of the card rather than the card-holder. As such, anyone can hold and use this identity card to gain access.


User-experience is also an issue. The user must always have the card or key fob with them, and must scan it over and over again at each access point.  While personal RFID cards seem like a low-cost solution, maintaining, supporting, replacing and producing the cards is a major expense, making this solution cumbersome to the employee and costly to the company.


What You Know

Another popular option is the use of a password. But, passwords can by tricky, too. First, people can share passwords (to significant others, co-workers, etc). Alternatively, employees can set passwords that are easy to guess (12345, !@#$%^, qwerty, etc.), or passwords that are too difficult to remember (such as random assortment of numbers, letters and symbols which you will obviously need to write down somewhere, thus creating another security threat).


While passwords are still a popular method for access control – especially in networks and software – they do not provide an optimal user experience. Users often don’t create strong enough passwords, or can’t remember them, which then requires a time-wasting procedure to obtain a new password.


Furthermore, passwords, while seemingly lowest in cost for hardware and maintenance, are actually the world’s most expensive identification solution, according to recent studies. Password management and its administrative costs are much more expensive than one would expect, but not as costly as the future damages caused by misuse of passwords.


Who You Are

In technical terms, “Who You Are” is referred to as biometric identification. This type of identification can be performed based on one or more factors. There are many types of biometric identification: fingerprinting, iris scans, facial recognition, voice analytics, etc. In terms of security, each organization has to determine the level required, but in general, if the security level is higher, more than one identifier will be used (multi-modal). The security benefit of this form of identification is that it is difficult for someone’s physical attributes to be stolen or replicated.


That said, performing an iris scan or fingerprinting can also be a cumbersome procedure. To provide the optimal user experience, the biometric solution should be touch-less (not require a user to touch something to be identified). Further, the solution should not require users to slow down or stop – the identification experience should occur while the user is in motion.


Overall, it is clear that each option has its pros and cons. However, if you are looking for a solution that provides both a high level of security and an optimal user experience, the best solution is biometric, seamless, non-intrusive, in-motion identification. And with this option, you can be sure users will all keep their eyeballs intact.


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