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Who goes there?

The success of a biometrics system to control access to a building or computer system often depends on how well the users accept it, and their decision can literally depend on the smallest thing.

For example, when a pilot system using iris scanning was installed on USS Coronado to restrict and track physical access to certain areas of the ship, any number of technical problems could have been expected.

One of the biggest issues, however, was the extra few seconds it took people to pass through a door using the iris scan system compared with the relatively low-tech system they had been using.

"Previously, sailors would use a rocker switch type of lock, like a mechanical [personal identification number] code, to get through a door," said Dave Guerrino, the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command representative at the Defense Department's Biometrics Management Office. "They were able to do that in two to three seconds. The biometrics upped that to around five seconds, and the guys didn't like that."

What's becoming apparent is that each biometric application has its own requirements that must be addressed, he said.

"When trying to get through a door, even the smallest delay can be important," he said. "Before this pilot [project], many people just didn't appreciate that."

About the Author

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

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