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A significant technological migration is underway regarding physical security enhanced by using biometrics in combination with digital video surveillance.

Access Control

We have seen many changes to the world of video security.

  • Analog to digital
  • Tape to hard drive
  • Video-centric to IP-centric
  • Low resolution to high resolution
  • Basic and manual to automated and complex systems
  • Integrated systems and mixed media
  • Low utilization to high utilization
  • Mass deployment and density
  • Advanced biometrics
  • Advanced analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence

There are six core drivers that are motivating this shift.  They include:

  • Security
  • Liability
  • Service
  • Operations
  • Marketing
  • Analysis

The rationale to purchase closed circuit television solutions can vary widely from organization to organization based on individual needs.  Like any form of security, the presence of a video surveillance system can help in deterring theft or vandalism, ultimately offering a fast return on investment.


The application of video surveillance is driven by the answers to these questions.

  • Access and control – “Who can come in?”
  • Intrusion alerts – “Who is in the restricted area?”
  • Presence detection – “There is a customer here.”
  • Identification – “Harry is at the door, let him in.”
  • Deterrent – “Stop, there is a camera.”
  • Investigation tool – “They entered here first, then moved to the warehouse.”
  • Situational awareness – “The crowd is too large. The situation is escalating, call in more guards to help here.”
  • Accelerated and focused response – “There she is! In the warehouse.  Direct the security guards to intercept her there.”

Beyond the basic security applications, closed circuit television or CCTV can drive other ways to use it.  For example.

  • Liability – Video surveillance can help to address potential “slip and fall” customer claims, as well as potential fraudulent worker’s compensation issues
  • Operational Issues – Current business procedures can be studied and evaluated. Technology now offers remote monitoring, which can optimize a security director’s time by viewing multiple sites at once
  • Customer Service – A restaurant in Canada, for example, uses cameras to monitor the timing of dinner courses being delivered (Privacy Concern)
  • Marketing – Camera systems can promote companies via the Internet
  • Analysis – Vision systems are used for raw material analysis in manufacturing: colour, size, texture, etc.


So, what new capabilities are there to help strengthen physical security that uses digital video surveillance?  By far, the greatest advancement is in the field of biometrics.  When biometrics are combined with video surveillance, much more powerful capabilities result.  Biometrics provide a contextual meaning to video surveillance.



Biometrics can be used to enhance security and make access control to physical and logical resources user friendlier. Biometrics-based access control is now mature technology.  Integrate your access control and human resources systems with your surveillance solution … improving your business controls and your security.  Examples of popular biometrics include fingerprint scans and iris scans.

Facial Recognition


There are about 80 nodal points on a human face. Here are a few of the nodal points that are measured by software:

  • Distance between eyes
  • Width of nose
  • Depth of eye sockets
  • Cheekbones
  • Jaw line
  • Chin

The facial recognition process has five key steps.  These steps are: 1. Detection, 2. Alignment, 3. Normalization, 4. Representation, and 5. Matching.



An AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is a computerized system for sorting, comparing, and exchanging digital fingerprint data. AFIS is used where numbers of fingerprint records are large, and processing can take a significant time. AFIS storage may contain even billions of unknown or unknown fingerprint records. When a new fingerprint is compared against existing ones, it may take hours depending on the number of records to be compared.

IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is an AFIS, which was developed and maintained by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). It was deployed in 1999 and has been serving FBI and other agencies since then. The FBI claims to house the largest collection of digital fingerprint images and criminal history in IAFIS. IAFIS can perform automated fingerprint search, digital image storage, latent search and exchange of fingerprint data and responses. IAFIS contains millions of records of criminal, terrorist as well as civil subjects. Fingerprint data collected by other law enforcement agencies in the United States is also shared with the FBI. Data captured during criminal booking, the US-VISIT program, which is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) management system or during employment background checks ends up to the IAFIS database.


Fingerprints are by far the most popular form of biometric.  They have been used for more than 100 years.  Today, they outperform all other forms of biometrics by a factor of 10, including DNA.  As far back as 1883, Mark Twain wrote about fingerprints solving a murder case in his book, Life on the Mississippi.  Later, in 1894, fingerprints were the central theme of another Twain book called, Pudd’nhead Wilson.  In 2015, the FBI IAFIS held fingerprints and criminal histories of 70 million subjects in the criminal master file, 31 million civil prints, and fingerprints from 73,000 known and suspected terrorists processed by the U.S. or by international law enforcement agencies.  FBI Claims to process around 104,000 fingerprint submissions per day with IAFIS.  It holds more than 59 million criminal history records with more than 201 million criminal arrest cycles.  Approximately 9,000 new records are established using IAFIS per day and around 29,000 updates are made to the criminal history file.  According to the FBI, electronic submissions for civil identification get a response in 1 hour and 12 minutes while criminal fingerprint submission are processed and responded in 27 minutes on an average.

Retinal and Iris Scans


There are two forms of eye scans.  A retinal scan measures the pattern of blood vessels in the back of the eye and is obtained by shining an infrared light through the pupil.  An iris scan can be performed using a video camera and examines the unique patterns of ridges on the coloured portion of your eye.


Eye scans may have 1 error in 10,000,000. Whereas, a finger print is prone to errors 1 in 500 times.

Vein Viewer


There is huge variation in the quantity and placement of veins in the palm, so that a map of your palm will be unlike anyone else’s.  Vein matching, also called vascular technology, is a technique of biometric identification through the analysis of the patterns of blood vessels visible from the surface of the skin. Though used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency, this method of identification is still in development and has not yet been universally adopted by crime labs as it is not considered as reliable as more established techniques, such as fingerprinting.  However, it can be used in conjunction with existing forensic data in support of a conclusion.


The most important aspect of vein recognition is that it is non-invasive.  Meaning that you need not touch the person being identified.  This is important if you need to covertly identify someone without their knowledge.



Speaker recognition is the identification of a person from characteristics of voices (voice biometrics).  It is also called voice recognition.  There is a difference between speaker recognition (recognizing who is speaking) and speech recognition (recognizing what is being said).  These two terms are frequently confused, and “voice recognition” can be used for both.  In addition, there is a difference between the act of authentication (commonly referred to as speaker verification or speaker authentication) and identification.  Finally, there is a difference between speaker recognition (recognizing who is speaking) and speaker diarisation (recognizing when the same speaker is speaking).  Recognizing the speaker can simplify the task of translating speech in systems that have been trained on specific person’s voices or it can be used to authenticate or verify the identity of a speaker as part of a security process.


Speaker Verification, and the associated technologies that contribute to a complete speaker verification solution, could account for as much as 40% to 50% of biometric spending.  Speaker verification needs to be layered with other forms of security to truly be effective.  A complex science based upon time domain, waveform shape, trend, frequency, dynamic range, rise times, peak to peak values, amplitude, sound pressure, and more.


So, the next time that you are considering a new video surveillance system, you need to also consider biometrics.  This combination will greatly enhance the power of classic CCTV systems.

Before the events of Sept. 11th in New York City, the idea that Americans would voluntarily agree to live their lives under the gaze of a network of biometric surveillance cameras, peering at them in government buildings, shopping malls, subways, and stadiums, would have seemed unthinkable, a dystopian fantasy of a society that had surrendered privacy and anonymity.  But in fact, over the past decade, this precise state of affairs has materialized, not in the United States but in the United Kingdom and worldwide.


About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies.

He is a Senior Executive with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 13 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He serves as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.