Biometrics as a Service in the Workplace: The Quickest Route to Biometric Tech.
Biometrics as a Service, Workforce Management
Due to ever increasing competition among businesses, today’s workplaces face a consistent challenge of being efficient while keeping the cost down. It might sound contradictory to keep up efficiency while reducing cost but there are always strategies as well as solutions. These solutions can circumvent your approach towards a problem and help solve it without putting burden on your business.
BaaS (Biometrics as a Service) is one of such solutions, which can help you fulfil your biometric implementation without taking any significant chunk out of your profit.
In this article, we will discuss how biometrics is being used by companies and how BaaS can help them with their biometric identification and authentication requirements.
What is biometrics as a service (BaaS)?
To understand the basic concept and motivation behind offering biometric technology as a service, we must have a look at SaaS first, where the idea of BaaS originated from. SaaS (Software as a Service) is a method of software delivery and licensing, in which software is accessed online via a subscription, rather than bought and installed on individual computers. SaaS is sometimes referred to as on-demand software, web-based application and hosted application.
SaaS itself is a subset of cloud environment, which offers a wide array of other cloud services like networks, servers, storage, applications, and services.
NIST defines cloud computing as…
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models.”
National Institute of Standards and Technology
SaaS is one of the service models of cloud computing, in which a software application is delivered over the internet. This application is designed to serve a specific purpose (e.g. a cloud based spreadsheet program or ERP software. Some SaaS application vendors may offer a customized solution meeting your business requirements, while others offer a comprehensive application as-it-is that includes all necessary functions.
SaaS application may be free or paid. If paid, users have to pay for the applications in accordance with the subscription/plan opted, which many be monthly, quarterly or annually. Other popular service models of the cloud computing are Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and Platform as a service (PaaS).
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offers IT infrastructure over the cloud, which can be used by businesses and organization as per their business needs. IaaS providers offer full control, hardware, storage, processing power, networking capability through a web based virtual interface. IaaS is like a server-on-subscription service, in which you do not need to buy and setup a server. IaaS enables organizations to quickly customize their own PaaS or SaaS layers on the IaaS.
Platform as a service (PaaS), on the other hand, provides organizations and individuals a virtual platform to deploy their own SaaS layer. Web applications, web services, tools, databases, etc. can be deployed on this cloud service model.
BaaS or biometrics as a service is an approach in which well-established methodologies of SaaS (Software as a Service) model are leveraged to enable biometrics recognition over the cloud and offer it as a service.
Image: Basic architecture of biometrics as a service.
How biometrics as a service model works?
Biometrics as a Service is setup more or less like a Software as a Service model. One or more cloud servers are setup to perform biometric enrollment and matching. These servers host applications equipped with biometric algorithms that can receive input from multiple remote terminals. These servers are accessed via the APIs provided by the BaaS vendor.
An enrollment endpoint (biometric scanner assisted with an application) is used to enroll the user. Generated biometric templates are stored on the cloud server in a biometric database and are associated with identity data, which is also stored a cloud server. All enrollment, identification and authentication functions are made available and performed via a browser based web (cloud) applications.
Some BaaS vendors offer only stateless REST services, in which only computational results are provided to a request, e.g. comparison score or biometric liveness score of a fingerprint scan. There is no data storage capability provided for templates or identity data.
How are biometrics used by companies?
Biometrics in the workplace is taking over traditional approaches of security, access control, identification and authentication. Biometric tech in the workplace can dramatically improve operational efficiency and time taken in redundant processes due to inefficient approaches.
Biometric authentication in the workplace is also increasingly replacing password based approaches to for security of workstations, networks, and servers.
Following are some of the common applications in which biometric tech is used by companies:
Access control and workplace security
Access control and workplace security is one of the most common applications of biometrics in the workplace. Biometric tech in the workplace is used for physical as well as digital access control. Physical access control includes controlled access at production floors, restricted areas, server rooms, etc. while digital access is control is used for securing PCs, servers, networks, etc. from unauthorized access. Biometrics is also used in enforcing physical security perimeter to ensure workplace security.
Biometric tracking in workplace
Biometric authentication in the workplace is extensively used by companies for attendance and time tracking of employees. It is also one of the most common applications of biometric tech in the workplace. Availability of self-sufficient biometric attendance machines has greatly helped organizations to improve their payroll and operational efficiency.
However, in some cases biometric tracking in workplace may not be possible with traditional standalone biometric system. In many large organizations, employees are work at different office locations and in the field, in that case they do not have access to office resources. In such cases, BaaS can help with biometric tracking in workplace by remote attendance using a smartphone or mobile device.
Workplace wellness programs
Today’s workplaces offer perks and incentives to employees join workplace wellness program. Majority of workplace wellness programs include a biometric screening, in which many physical characteristics of employees like height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, etc. are measured by a third party for workplace health assessment.
Workplace wellness programs are not only beneficial for employees; they also help employers reduce health plan costs. Biometric screening data can be vital for organization to make necessary adjustments about their workforce. This health data can be associated with biometric identity of the employees and can be re-evaluated instantly with a biometric scan.
KYC (Know Your Customer)
In some industry types like telecommunication services, banking, financial services, etc. performing KYC for all new and existing customers is a mandate. If performed with manual identity verification methods, KYC can take significant time and resources, making customer onboarding an unpleasant experience.
It may also attract fines or sanctions if not done properly as KYC is mostly a regulatory requirement around the world. Many organizations has already replaced their traditional KYC methods in favour of more secure and efficient eKYC or biometric KYC, in which identity verification is done with a biometric scan against an already established database of trusted biometric identities.
Mitigation of risk presented by personal devices
Today’s workplaces face a unique business network security challenge that is presented by the personal devices that employees bring along. Inception of personal devices like smartphones, smart gadgets comes with all sorts of connectivity options. Employees may choose to access organizational resources with their personal devices. Employees with credentials to organizational resources like network, servers, etc. may connect them ignoring the risk they may present.
Biometrics is helping enterprises implement BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies more efficiently with MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions. Employees accessing company resources with their biometric credentials help organizations to make sure that the device is in safe hands.
Security of mobile apps and services
Rise of smartphones, mobile computing and their increasing share in performing financial transactions have raised many security concerns. Mobile devices are more prone to loss or theft as they are carried along. Consequences of losing an unlocked mobile device, on which your banks application is installed with auto-filled credentials, are not too hard to imagine.
Behavioural biometrics is an emerging trend, which is already being leveraged by banks and financial service institutions to safeguard their customers against unauthorized access to their account. This strategy is called “continuous authentication”, in which usage patterns are recorded and used to create a unique profile of the user.
Biometrics is already being used by companies for workforce management related functions like employee time tracking, attendance management, leave management, scheduling, mobile workforce management, etc. Workforce management with biometrics offer several benefits like increased productivity, payroll efficiency, prevention of time theft activities like buddy punching or timesheet manipulation.
Biometrics also helps with workforce analytics, in which data generated out of biometric workforce management activity is analysed. It is done with the help of software tools to produce valuable insights that helps companies to avoid mistakes, take better decisions and make forecasts.
Biometrics is also used for visitor management by companies to improve front desk efficiency, friendliness, productivity and security. Visitor registration with their biometrics like fingerprints or face scan not only improves efficiency, but also enhance confidence in visitor identification, hence enhances security.
Self-service visitor registration kiosks with biometric recognition can further automate the process of visitor registration. They can automatically print visitor passes with no or very little assistance, setting front desk employee to attend other tasks.
Biometric authentication in the workplace: How BaaS can help companies?
Biometrics as a Service offers all the goodness of cloud and proven benefits of SaaS. With SaaS, organizations do not need spend money on laying infrastructure or arranging and in-house resources like servers, storage, applications, etc., rather they can subscribe them over the could.
Same is the case with BaaS, you do not have to invest in expensive resources to build your biometric infrastructure from scratch, rather you can subscribe them and just have endpoints (e.g. fingerprint scanners) connected with the service via the internet. All processing, matching and storage of biometric data take place on a cloud server. All you need is an endpoint (biometric scanner connected with the cloud application) to access your biometric cloud infrastructure.
What is more you can even pay-as-you-go, there are monthly, quarterly and yearly subscriptions available with attractive plans to quickly get you going. Biometrics as a Service not only saves money, but also saves organizations from a lot of hassles of buying and maintaining an in-house infrastructure.
Biometric tech in the workplace with BaaS: advantages
- Quick integration and deployment
- Cost saving: No need to invest in infrastructure
- On demand biometrics
- Securer due to biometric database being on cloud
- Economy of scale reduces subscription cost, as more popular BaaS grow, cheaper it will become
- Being on cloud makes it accessible from anywhere in the world
- Scalability: Easy to introduce new application or shrink current ones
- Easy to implement at any endpoint on the network
- Even in most complex biometric deployment scenario, there is no need to have any additional infrastructure or experience
Organizations may feel under pressure when upgrading their traditional identification, authentication and access control practices with modern approaches like biometrics. Over the years, biometric products, solutions and services have become cheaper; however, cost can still deter you if you are looking for a large scale deployment of biometrics in the workplace.
SaaS applications have been successfully deployed and used by small to large scale organizations. Their proven track record paved the way to provide other services on SaaS methodology and that is where the idea of BaaS or Biometrics as a Service took birth.
Biometrics as a Service is in its early stage of in terms of market share; however, it is expected to become the key driver of biometric deployments in the future. BaaS takes biometric to the cloud, and it has a growth potential where sky is the limit.
About The Author
Danny Thakkar is Senior Product Manager at Bayometric, one of the leading biometric solution providers in the world. He has helped large organizations like Pepsi, America Cares, Michigan State and many other medium and small businesses achieve their identity management needs. He has been in the Biometric Industry for 10+ years and has extensive experience across public and private sector verticals. Currently, he is chief evangelist for Touch N Go and blogs regularly at www.bayometric.com and www.touchngoid.com.
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