Biometrics plays double duty at fast food operations, providing security and time & attendance tasks.

Since the mid-1980s, the drum has been beating about biometrics. It was Star Wars, Star Trek and House of the Future. But recently, and ironically thanks to IT and business applications, biometrics is back – maybe – as an enabling piece of traditional access control.

Wall Street has an eye on access and biometrics. Presently in its early growth stage, the North American electronic access control (EAC) market looks set for continued growth, of course. The possibility of multi-technology authentication greatly drives market growth, and with increased competition and reduced prices, this market will witness greater venture capital and equity interest. Moreover, with security concerns becoming top priority, the market is optimistic about a buoyant growth period and richer returns from the technological benefits of various segments.

New analysis from research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts that revenues in this market totaled $1.32 billion in 2006, and estimates this to reach $4.19 billion in 2010.

“The North American EAC market is increasingly driven by mandates and other standardization procedures undertaken across the different verticals,” Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Janani Sankaran said. “Biometrics, in particular, is emerging as the fastest growing segment of the North American EAC market, benefiting tremendously from legislation such as the Aviation and Transport Security Act.”

Besides biometrics, card-based and audio- video-based EAC segments will also experience growth in the next few years. While the emergence of contactless smart cards will contribute to the growth of the card-based EAC segment, the advent of IP-based surveillance systems will enhance the growth of audio-video-based EAC systems.


However, existing investments in legacy systems could deter the pace of adoption for the more recent EAC systems. Moreover, the shift from magnetic stripe cards to smart cards is progressing at a slower than anticipated pace, and this represents a major challenge for the smart-card based EAC market.

“Integration with legacy systems involves the strengthening of the distribution network, enabling it to be both software and hardware oriented,” said Sankaran. “Additionally, the adoption of a licensing policy that suits all the participants in the value chain is also a significant challenge.”

An example of the growth of biometrics as both a security and business application comes from the Golden Arches.

Recently, more than 80 McDonald’s restaurants are cutting payroll costs by up to 22 percent annually after incorporating Ingersoll Rand’s Recognition Systems’ biometric HandPunch biometric terminals to record time and attendance. Such terminals eliminate expenses associated with employee badges and fraud caused by buddy punching. Over 3,400 employees at 85 McDonald’s restaurants in South America have been enrolled with the device over the past four years. On average, the system generates over 7,500 transactions each day resulting in over 2.5 million “punches” annually.

“McDonald’s moved to biometrics because they wanted to verify that the employee clocking in was really that person,” said McDonalds’ Brenda Morales. “Students make up about 90 percent of the McDonald’s workforce here. They were frequently punching one another in to cover for exams or other school-related events.

“A card only verifies a card,” added Morales. “We have used finger scanning for other applications, but we believe that hand geometry is more effective and produces fewer errors when there are larger employee populations. With hand geometry, a larger area is scanned than with finger scans and the template is updated after every scan so it remains current.”


Instead of filling out or punching timecards, employees simply place their hands on the unit. It automatically takes a three-dimensional reading of the size and shape of the employee’s hand and verifies the user’s identity in less than one second.

Supervisors at each franchise using the terminals authorize and verify employee time and overtime on a computer located at the store. The hours are then sent to a central payroll processing center via a telephone line. The supervisors themselves also use the device to clock in and out.

“Most supervisors at McDonald’s are promoted from within and many find it difficult to impose rules and restrictions on their fellow workers,” Morales explained. “The biometrics technology ensures that everyone is treated the same and fairly. McDonald’s employees are satisfied with the HandPunches because their payroll information is processed quickly and without mistakes. They receive regular reports with information about their time and attendance.”

Biometrics is a crucial element in the Registered Traveler program being rolled out at the nation’s airports. The design follows two missions: security and customer service.

SIDEBAR: Registered Traveler Solution Includes Biometrics

Slow out of the block, the Registered Traveler program – aimed at prescreening airline passengers and allowing them to pass through special security lanes at airports – includes a biometrics component. One example, The FLO (Fast Lane Option) Alliance has been selected by Huntsville International Airport (HSV) to develop a FLO solution for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Registered Traveler program. This award paves the way for the FLO Alliance to obtain certification from the Department of Homeland Security and conforms to standards set by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) related to the RT program.

Serving 18 counties throughout two states, Huntsville International Airport is known for its state-of-the-art technology and customer convenience.

“As we evaluated potential Registered Traveler partners, it became clear that the FLO Alliance offered a compelling combination of leading-edge technology and long-term marketing vision and shared our common operational approach, which focuses on customer service,” said Rick Tucker, executive director, Huntsville International Airport. “We anticipate implementing an RT program once the TSA has determined it will provide greater benefits for the traveler than simply going to the front of the line. Such benefits could include not removing shoes, coats or laptops. We want to help reduce the hassle factor for our passengers.”

The TSA’s RT program is designed to allow individuals who voluntarily undergo an in-depth background check, provide biometric information (such as a fingerprint or iris scan) and pay an annual fee to take advantage of expedited security screening procedures at participating U.S. airports.

One of the key features of the initiative is the requirement for interoperability across participating airports and service providers. As a result, holders of other approved RT cards will be able to use the HSV FLO lane and, similarly, FLO cardholders can use their cards at lanes in other airports deploying a program. These standards of interoperability were designed as a collaborative effort between industry stakeholders, including FLO Alliance founding member Saflink, which co-edited the specification.

The FLO Alliance for Registered Traveler, initially formed in 2005, brings together industry leaders in technology, finance and facilities infrastructure and security systems, in addition to companies with broad experience marketing to businesses, consumers and the aviation industry. The Alliance’s solution provides for the complete Registered Traveler credentialing process and its operational use in airports. Built on the proven technologies of its members, the FLO Alliance RT architecture covers the enrollment of biographic and biometric information and identity verification of participating individuals; collection of program fees; production and issuance of secure, tamper-proof FLO credentials; installation, maintenance and management of authentication platforms within aviation facilities throughout the United States; and operations management and customer service for the nationwide subscription program.

In the HID multiCLASS reader line, this unit handles Indala 125 kHz prox and AWID.

SIDEBAR: A Contactless Reader Branches Out

It’s a matter of integration through the card. HID Global recently launched a new version of the company’s RP40 multiCLASS reader. In continued support of the multiCLASS reader line, the RP40 now supports Indala 125 kHz proximity and AWID, in addition to HID proximity.

New enhancements combine 125 kHz proximity and 13.56 MHz contactless smart card and reader technologies into a single reader, providing additional support for users upgrading from the most popular proximity cards to the most popular contactless smart cards. The RP40 provides a clear multi-technology migration path for the large installed bases of Indala and AWID customers.

With multiCLASS, the customer has the ability to transition to contactless smart cards over time while incorporating the use of multiple card technologies within a single building or across multiple facilities. Additionally, customers can transition from disparate proximity technologies to a unified contactless smart card solution from HID, a leading manufacturer in the access control industry.

“The multiCLASS reader is the ultimate migration tool. With our unique card technology read selection feature, customers have endless card management flexibility, with security and simplicity,” said Jack Bubany of HID.