Already in use in many high-security areas, biometric recognition systems may be the next step towards more secure access control in the nuclear industry.

As biometric recognition systems are becoming more reliable custore demand for these systems has recently been increasing dramatically. Only biometric systems are able to check the presence of a particular person. Conventional identification systems can only check if a valid token or key is present or if a person knows secret information such as a PIN or a password.

One of the most recent innovations in this technology is the FaceVACS (visual access control system) software package by plettac electronic security. It is designed to integrate into existing security systems and networks, the only hardware required being a PC and CCD camera.

Operating as a verification system in combination with a card reader or key-pad, the camera’s video signal is digitised and analysed by the terminal computer. Characteristic facial features from the image are extracted and compared against stored data. These features have to be equal within certain limits, and changes suchas a new haircut, different glasses or even a different facial expression can be taken into account.

The FaceVACS system is already in extensive use in the banking sector, the chip industry (access to development labs, pharmaceutical industry (access to the security centre), computer industry (access to computer centres) as well as in prisons. As even higher levels of security are required, biometrics may also take on a more central role in nuclear plant security.