Biometric Switch Controls Access

DN Staff

February 11, 2010

3 Min Read
Biometric Switch Controls Access

Aninnovative industrial switch uses biometric fingerprint-recognition technologyto restrict employee access to sensitive areas and machine functions. The HarmonyTMbiometric switch from Schneider Electric operates as a stand-alone device thatcan be interfaced to a wide variety of controllers and is designed specificallyfor industrial environments.

"Until now, this type of technology has notbeen available for use in industrial settings due to the often extremeconditions found in the plant," says Selin Yilmaz, pushbutton product managerfor Schneider Electric.

Yilmazsays since the biometric switch operates stand-alone, so there's no need for asupplementary interface, USB cable or port. It can be mounted in a standard 22mm pushbutton cut-out and connected quickly using bared wires or an M12connector.

Theswitch offers options to be connected to a PLC, HMI, relay, drives or a motioncontroller using a 200 mA PNP output. As long as the device takes the maximum200 mA current, it can be connected using any 24V dc power supply. It is designedto be a simple product for interior machine access control or specific securedareas such as a tool shop.

Yilmazsays the biometric switch basically operates using a camera capture of afingerprint. When a fingerprint is initially installed in the device, it takesat least three touches because the system captures the fingerprint, analyzes itthrough mathematical processing and then compares the previous two to insurethe fingerprint using general biometrics technology.

Inoperation, the switch reads fingerprint patterns to verify that someone isauthorized to access sensitive areas and machine functions through an anonymousprocess in which fingerprints serve only to authorize access, not confirm anindividual's identity. Yilmaz says fingerprint readers have been shown to bemore effective and efficient than other security systems, and they can alsosave money long-term.

Fingerprintreaders unlike passwords, swipe cards or pin numbers can't be lost, stolen, borrowed,guessed or forgotten. She says industry experts estimate that up to 40 percentof all calls to IT help desks stem from password problems, and the average costof each call ranges from $10 to $31.

The switchhas two operating modes: on-off mode orpulse mode for momentary action. Authentication takes less than 1 sec, and thefalse acceptance rate is less than 0.1 percent. The switches can also store upto 200 fingerprints, including several fingers from the same operator, foradditional flexibility and precision.

Thebiometric switch was initially developed as a replacement for electromechanicaloptions such as key switches but biometric offers a different option becausekeys can be lost and fingerprints can also be used to provide password access. "Wewent along with the replacement key switch idea and expanded it to the other marketswhere it can be useful," says Yilmaz.

Thefirst person programmed into the biometric becomes the administrator. Theadministrator can add or delete users, but users are the only ones that cancontrol the output of the biometric switch. It provides an enhancement over akey switch because of the added security, plus it is not as expensive as otherbiometric readers that come with a controller and are also used for otherpurposes.

A new biometric switch operates using a camera capture of a fingerprint, and reads fingerprint patterns to authorize access to sensitive areas and machine functions. Photo:  Schneider Electric

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