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Integrating Biometrics with Access Control: A Guide for Installers

Elliot Blackler September 14, 2023 7 min read

Access control has been an evolving field, the shift from lock and key to card swipes was a milestone, but we're on the brink of another seismic shift: Biometric Access Control.

With the increasing vulnerabilities in conventional access control systems, the focus has gradually moved towards more secure and convenient solutions.

This guide aims to offer installers like you a deep dive into the world of biometric access control, its pros and cons, and how to seamlessly integrate it into existing security systems.


Why the Shift to Biometric Access Control?

Increased Security Concerns

Let's face it; traditional access control systems have limitations. Over the years, there have been countless incidents of key cards being lost, codes being shared or easily guessed, and doors being propped open.

Biometrics offer an unparalleled level of security by using unique physical characteristics that are nearly impossible to replicate or share.

Technological Advancements

In the early years, biometric technology was unreliable and expensive. Now, with advancements in sensor technology, data storage, and software algorithms, these systems are not only more reliable but also more affordable.

This democratisation of technology is opening doors—quite literally—for a broader range of applications.

Ease of Use

In environments like hospitals or high-security buildings, time is often of the essence. Biometric systems offer quicker and more user-friendly experiences.

There’s no need to remember codes or carry key cards. A simple fingerprint or facial scan can provide immediate access, streamlining the flow of authorised personnel.


Types of Biometric Access Control Systems

Fingerprint Recognition

This is the most common type and likely the one you'll install the most. Fingerprint systems have become highly accurate and can now even read through light layers of dirt or oil. They are cost-effective and relatively easy to set up.

Facial Recognition

With the advent of powerful cameras and robust software algorithms, facial recognition systems have become more accurate and reliable. These systems are particularly useful in environments where hands-free access is preferred, such as operating rooms or clean labs.

Iris and Retina Scanners

While more on the expensive side, iris and retina scanners offer an even higher level of security. These are typically used in very high-stakes environments like government facilities or research labs.

Voice Recognition

Less commonly used but still effective, voice recognition systems can be a good fit for certain specialised applications. Though not as secure as fingerprint or iris scans, voice recognition adds an additional layer of security when used in multi-factor authentication settings.

Hand Geometry

Hand geometry takes into account the shape of the hand, including the length and width of fingers, to verify identity. While not as secure as some other methods, hand geometry has its applications, especially when high levels of hygiene are not a primary concern.


Pros and Cons of Biometric Access Control


  1. Higher Security: The unique biological traits used in biometric systems make it exceedingly difficult for unauthorised users to gain access.  
  1. Convenience: For the end-user, biometrics are incredibly convenient. No more forgetting cards at home or worrying about PINs.  
  1. Audit Trail: Biometric systems keep a detailed record of who accessed what and when, making it easier for security teams to monitor activity and investigate incidents.



  1. Initial Costs: There's no skirting around it; biometric systems can be more expensive upfront. However, they often prove cost-effective in the long run.
  2. Privacy Concerns: Storing biometric data raises ethical and legal considerations that you'll need to address, often requiring additional layers of encryption and data protection.
  3. False Positives and Negatives: While rare, no system is foolproof. Environmental factors, such as lighting for facial recognition or dirt on a fingerprint scanner, can affect performance.

By embracing biometric access control, not only will you be enhancing the security infrastructure of your clients, but you'll also be adding a valuable skill set to your portfolio as an installer.

So, stay tuned for the remaining insights in the next part of this comprehensive guide.


How to Choose the Right Biometric Access Control

Assessing Site Needs

When considering integrating biometric access control, understanding the specific needs of the site is crucial. Factors such as the location of the building, the number of entry points, and the type of occupants can influence the choice of biometric system.

For instance, high-security environments may benefit from multi-modal biometric systems that use more than one biological trait for verification.

Compatibility with Existing Systems

Before investing in new technology, it’s important to assess how well it will integrate with the existing security infrastructure.

This includes evaluating the current access control systems, software, and any other integrated security measures like surveillance cameras or alarm systems. The ideal biometric system should offer a seamless integration process when installing to minimise disruptions and additional costs.

Budget Considerations

While biometric systems generally have a higher upfront cost compared to traditional systems, they can offer long-term savings. The absence of cards, keys, or PIN systems can reduce ongoing operational costs.

Nonetheless, budget constraints are a reality and should be considered carefully, including the costs of potential software updates, maintenance, and future scalability.


Steps to Integrate Biometric Access Control with Existing Systems

Preliminary Assessment

The first step in the integration process is conducting a thorough risk and needs assessment.

This involves evaluating the current access control system, identifying its weak points, and determining how a biometric system can address these gaps. A comprehensive audit will help in choosing the most suitable biometric system and planning its integration more effectively.

Installation Procedures

The actual process of installing a biometric access control system can vary significantly depending on the technology chosen and the existing infrastructure. Here are some general steps:

  1. Hardware Installation: This involves setting up biometric readers, which could be fingerprint scanners, iris scanners, or facial recognition cameras, at designated access points.
  2. Software Integration: Biometric software needs to be integrated with the existing access control software. This usually involves some customisation to enable seamless functionality.
  3. Database Configuration: The next step is to configure the biometric database, ensuring it is securely encrypted and properly linked to the existing access control system.

System Testing

Before making the system live, rigorous testing is imperative. Test the system under different conditions to ensure both the hardware and software components are functioning optimally.

Simulate various scenarios to evaluate the system's reliability, speed, and accuracy. Correct any issues and retest until performance meets the set benchmarks.

Training Staff

It’s not just the technology that needs to be ready; the people operating it also need to be adequately trained.

Training sessions should be conducted for security personnel and any other staff who will be interacting with the system. This ensures that any potential issues can be quickly addressed and that the system operates efficiently from day one.


Future-proofing Your On-site Security

Regular Updates and Maintenance

Just like any other technology, biometric systems are not a one-time setup; they require ongoing maintenance.

Regular software updates are critical for addressing any newly discovered vulnerabilities. Likewise, regular hardware maintenance ensures optimal functionality.


One of the benefits of modern biometric systems is their scalability. As the facility grows or security needs evolve, the system can be easily scaled up to include more users or additional access points.

It’s wise to plan for this scalability during the initial assessment and installation stages.

Data Backup and Recovery

Given that biometric systems rely heavily on data, having a robust backup and recovery plan is essential.

This ensures that in the event of hardware failure, database corruption, or other catastrophes, the system can be quickly restored with minimal disruption.



Biometric access control systems offer a potent combination of heightened security and streamlined access, making them increasingly popular in a range of environments—from offices and schools to high-security facilities and hospitals.

For installers, understanding the nuances of these systems is critical for effective integration, particularly with existing access control systems.

Integrating biometrics is not just about enhancing security; it's about positioning an installation business at the forefront of the industry’s future.

With careful planning, correct system selection, and thoughtful integration, biometric systems can be an invaluable addition to any security setup.




Q: How secure is biometric data storage?

A: Modern biometric systems come with advanced encryption methods to secure data, making unauthorised access highly unlikely.


Q: Can biometric systems work in harsh environments?

A: Biometric systems have improved significantly and can function reliably in a range of environmental conditions, including extreme cold and heat, though it’s essential to select the right system for your specific needs.


Q: What happens during a power failure?

A: Many biometric systems come with backup power solutions and can switch to alternative verification methods to ensure continuous operation.


Q: Are biometric systems 100% accurate?

A: While no system is 100% fool proof, modern biometric systems offer extremely high levels of accuracy, particularly when used in multi-modal configurations that use more than one biometric trait for verification.


With this comprehensive guide, it’s hoped that installers are not just informed but also inspired to embrace the robust capabilities of biometric access control systems. The future of access control is here, and it is biometric.

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Elliot Blackler

Elliot is the in-house content specialist at Nortech and runs all aspects of the resource hub. He's passionate about UK manufacturing and how modern content marketing can help bring light to complex industries.

Elliot works extensively with the Nortech team to shine a light on the access control industry for both installers and end users. Always keen to improve, feel free to email him on new content suggestions or feedback!

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