Ever since mankind first took shelter in the branches of a tree of the darkness of a cave there has existed a basic human need to keep insiders secure and outsiders excluded; a need for access control. Countless strategies have evolved since those ancient days to best effect this goal. Guards relying on their senses to detect and their fighting ability to repulse intruders were perhaps the earliest and simplest solution but we have come a long way since then: the door served as a useful screen to privacy but required the locking bar to serve as protection and, much later, the key to serve as a selective barrier.
Drawbridges, portcullises, gates, all these and many more were but places along the road to modern access control. The challenge has always been to design an efficient means of entrance and / or egress while not allowing that point to become a critical weakness in a structure’s defenses. For the modern individual, access control to one’s home, business, vehicle etc. is thankfully no longer a need only to be met by a fallible human sentinel or crude, easily-bypassed mechanical means such as a key. The inherent weakness of the key is that it may be easily duplicated by any locksmith, misplaced or pilfered by those to whom access is disallowed. Further, the lock itself is unavoidably a point of vulnerability, susceptible as it is intended to be to physical manipulation. The lock and key system is rendered obsolete by keyless entry systems such as biometrics.
Biometrics, from the Greek words “bios,” life and “metron,” measurement, is the science of ascertaining a person’s identity by analyzing their distinct physical and behavioral traits. Employed as a means of access control, biometric systems take the forms of such as fingerprint-readers and, though such devices may seem like the stuff of science fiction to many, voice and retina-recognition systems. A huge advantage biometric technologies enjoy over other modern forms of keyless entry such as PIN or Personal Identification Numbers is that such systems are once again reliant on fallible human agencies, in this case memory or on stored data which, like the humble key, can be copied, lost or stolen. Biometrics however, depend on nothing other than the unique, inalterable characteristics of the individual to whom access has been authorized.
As an example, it is very improbable for the person, to whom access to a particular area is granted, to lose their hand or have it stolen. Duplication of an individual’s hand to the degree necessary to fool a sophisticated biometric access control system such as a fingerprint-reader is, assuming it is even possible at all, certainly a more challenging prospect than say, that of duplicating a keycard. Thus it can be seen by this limited illustration just how far access control has come and what an outstanding level of security and convenience modern systems can provide.