What is Biometric Access Control?

Biometric access control is a system that authenticates and authorizes people based on their physiological attributes such as fingerprint, face recognition, retina and palm.  The main purpose of biometric access control is to restrict unauthorized users from accessing protected resources. 

There are four major components in biometric access control: input interface, processing unit, data storage unit and output interface unit.

  • Input interface unit: An input interface unit is a sensor that converts human biological data into digital form. You can use an optical sensor as an input interface for fingerprint scanning. A metal oxide semiconductor may be used for face recognition, retina recognition and palm recognition.
  • Processing unit: A processing unit can be a computer or a microprocessor that can process the digital data captured by sensors.
  • Data storage unit: The data storage unit is a data server or a contactless smart card from which enrolled samples are recalled to match at the time of authentication.
  • Output interface unit: The output interface unit communicates the decision to the access control system, enabling it to grant the user access to a secured room.

Though biometric systems are secure, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that certain biometric technologies are suboptimal. For instance, fingerprint scanning requires the user to touch the scanner as part of the authorization process. However, this physical contact may result in the spread of harmful viruses.

The increasing need for contactless access control has been forcing property managers to make a shift from biometric access control to mobile access control systems.

This article provides everything you need to know about biometric access control and how it compares with mobile access control, which provides contactless authorization without compromising security.

Why are Biometrics Used for Access Control?

Enterprises use biometric access control for various reasons, including:

  • Not vulnerable to theft: Enterprises choose biometrics over traditional physical access tokens (physical fobs, key cards, ID cards and access cards) because they are less vulnerable to being stolen.
  • Seamless user experience: Users don’t need to remember the passkey or carry the physical fob keys. They just need to place a finger on the scanner or stand in front of the face recognition systems to unlock the door.
  • Spoofproof: It is nearly impossible to replicate biometrics such as fingerprints, retinas, or other physiological attributes with the technology available today. Even identical twins don’t have matching fingerprints. In fact, the probability of two fingerprints matching is one in 64 billion.  

Biometric security systems have their share of disadvantages too. Factors such as high cost, lack of privacy for users, reliability concerns (risks of false positives), management of biometric data (compliance risks) and the complexity of transitioning from existing systems are acting as major barriers to adopting biometric access control systems.

  • Cost: The cost of implementing and maintaining biometric access control is relatively high. In a recent survey, 67% of IT professionals cited “HIGH COST” as the reason for not adopting a biometric access control system.
  • Lack of privacy of users:  Biometric access control systems convert biometrics of people into digital records and store them in a secure data server. If the security of this data server is breached, nefarious actors can use these digital records to track people’s movements without their knowledge. The Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner has stated that the biometrics collected for surveillance may infringe on people’s territorial privacy.

Different Types of Biometric Access Control Systems

Some of the widely used biometric access control systems are palm vein, fingerprint, face recognition, iris recognition and voice recognition. Depending on the physical security requirements, an enterprise can use one of these systems to enable only authorized users to have access to a particular room or a protected resource at the workplace.

Let’s take an in-depth look into the top three biometric access control systems below:

  1. Palm vein
  2. Fingerprint
  3. Face recognition

Palm vein

Palm vein biometric access control verifies the identity of a user based on the recognition of unique vein patterns. This technology scans the palm of the user through an infrared camera to capture the data points and trace the vein patterns.

Palm vein technology is contactless. Users don’t need to touch the sensor to scan their hands. They just have to guide their hand in front of the camera or sensor to be recognized.

The palm vein is fraud resistant because the system encapsulates the actual blood flow along with the vein pattern. Security teams can combine this technology with other existing security systems like card readers.

However, the drawback of this system is the high price. Moreover, the health factors such as fever can impact the quality of image and accuracy of the system.


A fingerprint biometric system is commonly seen in every workplace. It is a time-tested biometric used for various purposes, including recording time & attendance of employees, granting access to a protected room, authenticating payments and unlocking mobile devices. When a user places their finger on the fingerprint scanner, the system compares the fingerprint with the stored template in the database and provides access if it’s a match.

Biometric fingerprint access control systems are relatively cost-effective and easy to use. However, they require the user to physically contact the access control device for authorization. Moreover, fingerprints are susceptible to being collected and replicated by third parties.

Facial recognition (or face recognition)

Face recognition access control systems are seen in high security areas. The face recognition system allows users to walk up to the door and look at the facial recognition device. The device captures the face (facial characteristics) of the user and matches it with the existing database before granting access to a room or facility.

Biometrics Access Control vs. Mobile Access Control

Facial recognition is also a touchless biometric security solution that captures the face of the user from a distance. Despite being recognized as an easy-to-use technology, it is criticized for lack of accuracy and privacy risks.

Mobile access control is a widely-accepted access control technology that allows users to use their mobile keys or mobile phones to open gates, doors, networks and services. Mobile access control fares better than biometric access systems in various aspects, including convenience, privacy, cost and hygiene.

 Biometric Access ControlMobile Access Control
ConvenienceNot all biometric readers are convenient for users. For instance, people may feel uncomfortable when they are made to look at the camera for image capturing.Mobile access control is a highly convenient technology. Users may need to present their NFC or BLE-enabled smartphones to gain access to rooms.
PrivacyThe privacy of users is the biggest concern with biometric devices. For instance, facial recognition technology may capture the face of the user from a distance without his or her consent.The mobile access control does not capture any data other than what the user has provided while setting up the access control mobile app. The room for privacy and legal risks with mobile access control is almost zero.
CostThe cost of implementing and maintaining biometric access control is very high. For instance, the cost of a biometric access control system (biometric scanner, a specialized locking system and installation) may range from $5,000 to $10,000.  The cost of mobile access control is relatively less than other access control systems. For instance, the cost of a smartphone access control system may range from $700 to $1,500.
HygieneFingerprint, the most popular access control system, is not contactless. Users should touch the keypad or fingerprint scanner to unlock the door.Mobile access control is contactless. It allows users to wave or twist the mobile phone in front of the access control reader to unlock the door.
Business woman with glasses looking at smart pone

Take Advantage of the Safest form of Access Control with Genea

Biometrics have been a popular choice for the last few years. However, most biometric access control systems are criticized for high costs, lack of hygiene and privacy risks. Mobile access control may be the perfect alternative for enterprises looking to enhance the convenience of users and eliminate security risks.

Genea is a leading access control solutions provider. It offers cutting-edge security technologies, including cloud-based access control and touchless visitor management system.

Genea’s mobile access control is a cloud-based credentialing system that allows enterprises to distribute mobile access to employees with a simple set-up process:

  1. Security administrators assign a mobile key to enterprises.
  2. Employees download Genea’s access control app and verify their identity.
  3. Employees can use their smartphones to access gates, doors, and other protected resources at the workplace.

Book a demo to learn more about how Genea’s mobile access control can monitor access control workflows real time at your workplace. 

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