Multitasking, biometric style

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Who goes there?

Using the same biometric for physical access to buildings and logical access to computers might seem like an obvious way to use the technology — for reasons of efficiency and cost, if nothing else.

In fact, some people think that such a convergence is about to happen. Jason Schouw, a vice president with SCM Microsystems Inc., said organizations are trying to find ways to put the two together. For example, an agency might build a system in which the only people who can log on to the computer systems in a particular room are the ones who have valid access to that room.

"There is no technical reason for that not to be true," said Tom Moore, senior director of product management for biometrics vendor Sagem Morpho Inc. "The reason it's not happening is that each security implementation [in an organization] has its own policies and needs."

It's a classic turf issue, according to Greg Johnson, a subject matter expert with the Defense Department's Biometrics Management Office.

"Logical access belongs with the [information technology] department, and physical access belongs somewhere else," he said. "There are ways you can configure systems to tie the two together, but I haven't yet seen implementations where that's happening."

It may seem a natural marriage, but Johnson believes biometrics for physical and logical access will be separate items for some time to come.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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