Since the report of the first COVID-19 case in South Africa on 6 March 2020, institutions around the country began preventive measures to protect their staff and clients. Suspicious eyes turned towards biometric scanners which many SA institutions use for access control and security. 

Joburg universities, bank branches, and other institutions throughout the country banned the use of their biometric systems as a measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Cyril Ramaphosa’s address to the nation on 15 March 2020 encouraged actions of prevention in all industries. Prudent security companies, like Minerva Technologies, heed the call.

With the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines in mind, security agencies should consult institutions to move away from biometrics in favour of equally effective access control systems. But are all biometric scanners a problem? And what are the alternatives available? Read on to learn more about safer security solutions.

What are Biometric Scanners?

Biometrics refer to identifying a person based on their unique physiological characteristics. Faces, eyes, fingerprints, voices, and hand palms contain patterns that are recognisable by modern technology. Biometric scanners read one or more of these unique physiological characteristics.

Fingerprint scanners are the most common biometric scanners. Used through multiple South African industries, fingerprint scanners regulated access control on outer and inner doors as well as for secure electronic access. Authorized persons gain access by placing their finger onto a glass surface through which light sensors scan for a recognised pattern. The same process is used for hand scanners.

Face and eye scanners use cameras to read and recognise authorised persons. These types of biometric scanners are used mostly for outer door security or access to highly secure spaces. Requiring close proximity, these scanners are often triggered through pressing a button or simply moving closer. Although far less common, many modern SA businesses do use these security measures.

Voice scanners are an improving technology which strives to more precisely recognise words and speech patterns. Used for transcribing and smart home devices, the technology naturally migrated toward security. Voice verification offers another layer of protection to access control systems using interactive voice response (IVR). Call centres, banks and other SA institutions use voice recognition for great benefits to security.

How Can Banning Biometric Scanners Stop Coronavirus?

The COVID-19 virus has shocked the world with its rapid spread. First detected in China in late 2019, the coronavirus has now been reported in over 160 countries around the world. Threatening the more vulnerable, the virus yields mild to severe symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. While no specific treatments have yet been found, recovery is possible through medical care. The elderly, very young, and otherwise at risk of serious illness, however, are more of a concern for WHO officials who advise governments to enforce measures to stop the spread of the disease.

Similar to the Flu, COVID-19 is mostly spread through contaminated surfaces such as desks, tables, door handles, and telephones. When an infected person exhales or coughs, small droplets containing the virus release into the air and settle on nearby surfaces which a healthy person may touch. By touching their face, nose or mouth, healthy people may infect themselves if they have previously touched a contaminated surface.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) published health guidelines for businesses and other institutions. Following these, SA institutions help stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as other infectious diseases. One of the first instructions mentioned is to keep workplaces clean and hygienic, because surface contamination is the most common way for the coronavirus to spread. This means workers should continually clean surfaces in the workplace which are frequently touched by visitors or employees.

SA institutions who have banned biometric scanners took that advice one step further. Fingerprint and hand scanners’ glass surfaces are touched by multiple people throughout the day. Access panels to an office building are touched by a larger variety of people and far more often than an individual worker’s desk or workspace. By removing this popular contact point, SA institutions reduce the likelihood of their employees touching a contaminated surface.

But, not all biometric scanners require touch to function.

Which Types of Biometric Scanners are Safe?

The face, eye, and voice biometric scanners provide or may be modified to provide hands free functionality. Using cameras or recording devices, these scanners need little cleaning because only technicians have reason to touch them. 

In cases that a button is attached to the device, technicians can modify the biometric scanner to activate from proximity or voice command. All that remains is to add a mechanism which automatically opens the door, limiting contact to even the door handle or frame. 

By upgrading their existing biometric scanners, institutions maintain security while accommodating the prevention requirements laid out by WHO and SA governmental health officials.

Security Solution Alternatives to Biometric Scanners

With suspicion laid on biometric scanners such as fingerprint readers, SA institutions look for alternative security solutions. Minerva Technologies offer ranges of security solutions to choose and customise to fit your business. Here are a few access control alternatives to biometric scanners:

  • Keycard swipe or insert
  • Tag readers
  • Remote access
  • Pin code through mobile application

Your Trusted Providers

Make sure to use Minerva Technologies in 2020 to help you care for your staff and workplace. Our sales team and technicians are trained and knowledgeable in the latest security solutions. Contact us today. Be Minerva safe.