Typically, we use credentials such as keys or cards to represent people, but the most secure credential would be the actual person. Biometric devices do just that. Based on physical characteristics, biometrics don’t allow for substitutions, theft, or other fraudulent activities – and can be used in both large and small applications. Why Biometrics?Biometric systems allow end-users to be easily removed from the system and assurance that they are out. Based on the number and extent of installations and proven reliability, hand geometry is the dominant biometric technology for both access control and time-and-attendance applications, according to the 2002 World Biometric Report from Frost and Sullivan.What About Network Benefits?A standalone biometric system provides almost all of the same benefits as networked biometrics but without the network infrastructure. For applications where a building network is not in place, or where it would be difficult or unnecessary to include an opening in the network, a standalone system is actually a simpler way to achieve the same results.Because an end-user can download information directly to and from a standalone biometric reader using a personal digital assistant (PDA) running Windows® CE, he/she can gain the benefits of a network without the costs of network wiring. Among the features available with many individual biometric units are audit trails, access profiles, time zones, and alarm outputs.Today, some manufacturers have developed entire product families of computer-managed (CM) access control hardware that can be easily integrated. One such group includes a biometric hand reader that fits seamlessly into sites to provide specific access control characteristics at a given opening without requiring a hard-wired building network.Standalone readers can be powered with a wall-outlet power supply, as well as other low-voltage power supplies that often incorporate a battery backup. Some units also include programmable outlets that can be used to trigger secondary devices, such as a siren or a camera. When and Where?Applications of standalone CM readers are limited only by the imagination. Manufacturers have developed software that can provide the same type of data analysis previously available only with a network. This gives added economic value to each opening that is equipped with a CM system. In addition, complex wiring is eliminated, which is less expensive when adding a system to an existing building.Standalone biometric readers aren’t necessarily limited to small user bases. One hand reader model has a standard 512-user memory that is expandable to 32,000 users. Further, if conditions change and a network becomes advisable, it is easily upgraded to a networking model. Whenever there is a need to achieve specific control of who accesses an area or building, look at the advantages biometrics can add. Even in new or existing applications where they normally wouldn’t be considered, they can be easier to add than you might think.Martin Huddart is the general manager at IR Recognition Systems, IR Security & Safety Americas (www.irsecurityandsafety.com), Campbell, CA.