By Andy Williams, Contributing Editor
The biometric-enabled contactless card is getting another boost from the successful trial at the Quantico Marine Corps base, where a system merging the new with the old has been underway since last year.
SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, Charleston, VA) is the technical support agency for the Marine Corps. The group wanted to test a system that would work with legacy readers and cards (mag stripe with PIN number), while providing physical access control via a new contactless card loaded with the cardholder’s fingerprint, said SPAWAR’s project engineer, Larry Barfield.
Over the last decade at United States Marine Corps sites, magnetic stripe electronic access badges and PIN numbers have been used to replace older physical controls and personal recognition devices, explained Mr. Barfield. This project is helping to analyze the benefits of implementing biometric contactless technologies for future CAC generations at Quantico.
“The objective of this and other biometric pilot projects conducted by SPAWAR is to analyze the benefits of introducing biometric contactless technologies for legacy access control systems to determine suitability as an access control option for future generations of the Common Access Card (CAC),” he said. “The results from our studies indicate that by introducing biometric technology, the overall security posture is improved and throughput is actually increased when compared against magnetic stripe/PIN methods.”
Bioscrypt and HID get the nod
SPAWAR chose technology from Bioscrypt Inc., a Canadian company with offices in Van Nuys, Calif. Specifically they selected Bioscrypt’s V-Smart iClass biometric access control reader. The cards utilized are HID’s iClass contactless cards.
“We chose Bioscrypt because of its easy interface and manufacturer-supported MIFARE 14443A,” said Mr. Barfield.
In this test phase a population of about 850 individuals are using the system to gain physical access to certain areas on base. Each contactless card stores the individual’s fingerprint and a personal identifying number.
How has the trial fared?
The biometric reader test actually was deployed in October 2003. “The project is basically completed, we’re just continuing to collect data,” said Mr. Barfield.
“It works, absolutely,” he added. “Our concern about the users divulging fingerprint data wasn’t as big a deal as we thought. Of course, you’re dealing with the military which is used to providing such information.”
“Reliability is exceptional. We were concerned about throughput, but it actually improved over the mag stripe and pin card. We shaved off a second or two.”
He added: “As to integration with the mag stripe, the user can enter a duress code to the alarm monitoring system. We wanted to adopt that into the biometrics technology.”
For example, if the cardholder has his right fingerprint data on the card, he could use his left hand instead, said Mr. Barfield.
Where to now?
“We’ve reported our findings. The site has requested us to expand it,” replied Mr. Barfield. “We’re looking at covering the rest of their (Quantico) access control systems.”
The CAC is still being used for logical access and will likely continue until the two systems are merged, added Mr. Barfield. “Once the CAC card goes contactless, we see full usage of biometric access devices.”
But for now, he added “our end users are very happy with it and we’re looking to expand it at this location and at all air facilities in the Marine Corps.”
Among others involved in this project, said Mr. Barfield, are James Cain, the Marine Corps program sponsor who runs Marine Corps security, and Steven Leya, program manager for Marine Corps Security at SPAWAR.
“The deployment of our technology at Quantico is further evidence that the American government is taking steps to improve security and illustrates our ability to deliver world leading technology in the most demanding situations,” stated Pierre Donaldson, president and CEO, for Bioscrypt. “As further steps are taken and government projects defined, we believe our proven technology will continue to be selected.”
Bioscrypt provides identity verification technology, with more than 75,000 fingerprint readers currently installed. Among some of the other companies and partners using Bioscrypt technology are the U.S. Army, NASA, American Express, the New York Police Department, Kronos, NATO, Continental Airlines, Intel, Atmel, HID Corporation, Honeywell and Northern Computers.