Nick has asked:

Are facial recognition systems sufficiently sophisticated to operate secure building entry systems. I’m thinking school kids access into their school. Swipe cards are no good because the kids would lose them and there seems to be a data-protection issue over storing the thumbprints of children on a computer system!

Also, do you know anything about Intelligent Building management Systems?

The answer is no, not yet. Take this quote from the Homeland Security Newswire:

An FBI expert said that facial recognition does not figure in the FBI’s biometric strategy; he said facial recognition could have been a killer application — but it cannot; "The algorithms just do not exist to deliver the highly reliable verification required. This is even though the FBI has been evaluating facial recognition technology since 1963,"

But there are systems that do exist today and Iris Recognition is technically the most superior solution.

The general consensus is that facial recognition is not ready for prime time yet and although we can pick faces out in the crowd it is not accurate enough to be used for identification purposes. It is more suited to picking out faces that might be of interest, for example criminals, problem gamblers in casinos etc and then having manual review from a human to determine if the person identified is of interest.

If however you are looking for a technology to identify individuals then the popular alternatives are fingerprint and iris recognition.


Lets take a look at fingerprints first. On the plus side they are well understood by the general public and accepted. On the down side they are not as accurate as you would think and suffer from some serious usage issues.


They rely on the user making contact with a device which means the device will become dirty quickly particularly in locations such as Mine Sites where security is a serious business.

In addition certain job roles are particularly susceptible to fingerprint damage such as hair dressing salons where chemicals damage the fingerprints. Fingerprints also conjure up the image of someone chopping off your hand or finger to steal your identity.


DNA is accurate but suffers from a lot of problems. Firstly it invasive so not suitable for access control systems. Secondly it is slow. And thirdly it is not a absolute method of identificationas identical twins will have the same DNA


Iris Recognition (not scanning)

Now Iris Recognition suffers from a lack of public awareness and acceptance (although it is becoming more mainstream) and people often confuse Iris Recognition with Iris Scanning which carries the stigma of being invasive. Iris Recognition however is not invasive and only requires taking a photograph of the eye.


Iris Recognition is extremely accurate, fast and no two people have the same Iris Codes. In fact each individual has two Iris Codes as no two eyes are the same which has it’s advantages. For instance, in a high security environment (such as a bank) a Single Eye camera can be utilised to gain access to a vault and one eye can be assigned as the Access Eye and the other as an Alarm Eye should the bank be robbed.

Iris Recognition requires no physical contact so it does not suffer from the same issues as fingerprints.

Iris Recognition is very fast. 0.3 of a second is typical response time.

Iris Recognition devices come with “live” eye detection so the use of an eye that has been removed from a live subject is not an option. That blows a hole in Minority Report starring Tom Cruise.

The only downside of Iris Recognition devices is that lighting can become an issue so areas of direct sunlight can cause problems with the cameras.

For an excellent video of Iris Recognition in the wild check out the Panasonic BM-ET200 video here

Banks take note: You can stop fraud at all those tellers by installing these cameras and be 100% sure that the person withdrawing the cash is the owner of the account. Just think, no more pins to remember, no more skimming scams, the question is do the banks have enough left over from their enormous profits to fork out for our safety 😉

On to your last question Nick:“do you know anything about Intelligent Building management Systems?”Well that depends on your definition. If you are talking about entry access control then yes. I worked on and architected Cornerstone for Argus Solutions which is their biometric building management system utilised by the The Department of Defence in Canberra Australia and also many State Prisons across Australia to name a few.