Stepping up access control in schools: is biometrics the answer?

Biometrics information
Biometrics will increase security, but how many will opt out?

Security is always at the forefront of the school agenda, and never more so than recently. More educational establishments are embracing the many benefits presented by access control reader systems in terms of identifying and controlling who enters their buildings. In most cases this means presenting staff and pupils with access control key cards, fobs or tokens – which often double up as ID cards.

Biometrics offers more security and peace of mind   

Some institutions are now looking at increasing the level of protection offered by access control solutions, and that search inevitably leads them towards biometrics.

Installing a biometrics system is an obvious choice for schools in many ways: it negates the threat of stolen or lost tokens, it prevents the misuse of entry cards and ‘tail gaiting’ and on a simple level, does away with the ‘But I forgot my card/fob today’ scenario. In simple terms, a system employing biometrics prevents entry to anyone who doesn’t have a right to be there.

So why aren’t more schools going down the biometrics route?

The Protection of Freedoms Act

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (which comes into force in September 2013) makes that decision a great deal trickier. Under the terms of the Act, schools and colleges will need to notify and gain consent from parents if they intend to use and store their children’s biometric information. But pupils themselves will also be able to refuse to participate, even if their parents have consented.

This new legislation applies to the storing of biometric information such as fingerprints, eye retinas and irises, voice patterns, facial patterns and hand measurements.

Where a pupil or parent refuses consent, the school/college will have to provide an alternative. Which means they could end up with a mix of security systems in place: not ideal for administration or equality, not to mention the bottom line.

Access control manufacturers such as TDSi see this as an opportunity for education providers rather than a threat. They regard it as an opportunity to future-proof security systems and offer real choice. They advocate a multi-format access control reader that (as the name suggests) offers multi format security options (biometric, token or pin). Doing so means there will be choice now and in the future as the security market continues to rapidly develop.

Schools and colleges will need to weigh up the pros and cons for themselves, and see if biometrics is the right route.

Read more about what TDSi think here.