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High-tech biometric security

IN A typical James Bond film, the suave hero deals with iris scans, facial recognition systems and voice authentication as common technological security measures, but such gadgetry is fast expanding beyond the realm of Hollywood’s imagination.

Marius Coetzee, MD of identity management company Ideco, says biometrics refers to the identification of humans by their physical characteristics or traits.

Arriving at Ideco’s offices in Pretoria is like walking onto the set of a spy movie. To enter, a visitor must submit a fingerprint to the guard on duty along with an identity number and contact details. Then a registered and verified employee must open the door, again using fingerprint technology. The time and date are logged, as is the name of the person who opened the door.

Mr Coetzee says the industry has made the biggest advances in fingerprint biometrics.

“It’s a key aspect of forensic application. At a crime scene, the first thing the police dust for are fingerprints. Most people have 10 fingers and it’s highly unlikely for any two people to have the same prints. If you remember the first time you took fingerprints, it was probably with dark ink on paper, but technology has advanced since then,” he says.

“Depending on how good the technology is, it cannot only capture and store your fingerprint in 1.8 seconds, but also verify whether that fingerprint belongs to you. Fingerprint biometrics is now a real-time application.”

Mark Paynter, a sales executive at Ideco, says the technology is evolving rapidly.

“We’ve seen in the movies where people are able to lift someone’s print from the scene and access information that’s not their own (by stealing someone’s identity), but that is going to become more difficult to do.”

He pulls out a small, glossy black box. “This is the finger-vein print scanner. Not only does it check your fingerprint, but it also captures your vein network and checks to see whether blood is circulating in that finger. Like all security, none of it is criminal proof, but no run-of-the-mill criminal could crack this kind of intense biometric technology.”

Biometrics technology is in different stages of development globally, but South African technology and compliance are at the forefront. The police, the South African National Defence Force and government departments such as home affairs all use state-of-the-art biometric technology. The quality of the equipment is measured against a global standard for biometrics set by the FBI in the US.

The Department of Home Affairs has in 2013 started rolling out new smart South African identity cards that use biometrics. According to Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, laser engraving of personal details and photographs make the card difficult to forge or change. The smart card is expected to curb the use of fake or stolen identity documents.

The government’s technology meets the FBI standard, but according to industry sources, not all financial institutions in South Africa do, which would make their biometric evidence inadmissible in a court of law.

But are these high-tech systems within the reach of smaller businesses? Paul Hutton, CEO of voice biometrics company One Vault, says that as the technology improves, more companies are showing interest and the cost is declining.

“I used to work at a credit bureau and one of the major worries was always that our clients’ information wasn’t as secure as it could be,” he says. “Identity theft is becoming a scary phenomenon, increasingly in South Africa too. We work on a consumption model, which means there aren’t any large start-up costs. You pay for the technology as you use it.”

He adds: “Voice authenticating improves customer satisfaction and reduces costs and the probability of fraud. And this kind of biometric technology is the only one that can be used remotely.”

Mr Hutton says passwords used to access devices such as laptops and cellphones will soon be replaced by biometric controls. As ever more transactions are conducted online, companies are requiring significantly enhanced, multilevel authentication systems to combat fraud. There are also a range of processes — such as password resets — that require authentication but are time consuming and costly for companies and clients alike. These processes can be automated using remote third-level authentication at greatly reduced cost and with improved security.

In third-level authentication there are three ways of authenticating a person’s identity, in case of failure of one or two of the methods.

“Voice authentication is actually a technology that has come out of the military,” Mr Hutton says. “It’s not that easy to crack. If you record my voice and play it back to the machine, it won’t give you access to my data and information.

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ESAB Offers Next Generation Power Sources

ESAB Cutting Systems introduces EPP-202 and EPP-362, the next generation of Precision Plasmarc? power sources for the m3 Plasma? System, a precision plasma system that combines plasma cutting and marking capabilities in a fully integrated, easy-to-use package. The new EPP units offer precise control of the plasma current using all-digital control circuitry, and a new high-speed data bus connection which provides precise current control and gas regulation, as well as enhanced diagnostic capabilities, including advanced status and process monitoring.

The digital power circuits in the EPP-202 (200A) and EPP-362 (300A) allow the new power sources to handle a full range of cutting and marking tasks, delivering consistent, repeatable results while maximizing consumable life, without sacrificing output power or stability.

An internal coolant circulator keeps the power sources operating at a more constant, controlled temperature, resulting in improved overall reliability.

The integrated EPP design reduces the size, weight and complexity of the power supplies, minimizing installation and floor space requirements.

The EPP power supply is a core component of ESAB’s m3 Plasma System which delivers advanced cutting features and components, including the new XR Series nozzles that enable faster cutting over a wide range of material types and thicknesses with less power, using the same nozzle, as well as ESAB’s Precision Hole Technology?, which automatically produces bolt-ready holes. The m3 system supports SmartCycle? Technology for increased productivity through full system integration of plasma, CAD/CAM/nesting software and CNC. In addition, the m3 system features Smart Voltage Height Control capability, which automatically adjusts the voltage height control for maximum consumable life while ensuring consistent cut quality through the life of the consumables.

For more than 75 years, ESAB Cutting Systems has been offering off the shelf, turnkey solutions to customers around the world. ESAB Cutting Systems is a total system supplier, offering CNC shape cutting machines in a variety of sizes, using a wide range of cutting technology to include plasma, oxy-fuel, laser, and waterjet tools, programming and nesting software, and CNC controls.

ESAB Welding & Cutting Products is a recognized leader in the welding and cutting industry. From time-honored processes in welding and cutting to revolutionary technologies in mechanized cutting and automation, ESAB’s welding consumables, equipment, and accessories bring solutions to customers around the globe.

The Professional Power Sprayer PS22, from SCH (Supplies), now offers increased spraying time between charges because of its superior, high-capacity battery. With a 30-litre tank mounted on a tricycle-type chassis, the sprayer has three pneumatic wheels. A large-break back boom gives a spraying width of up to 2.44m, although the two outer nozzles can be deactivated to give a narrow spray width if required. Each PS22 unit includes end spray hoods to minimise drift, a dribble bar for applying weedkiller to defined areas, and a foam marker to allow the operator to see where product has already been applied. This model can also be fitted with a tow bar.

Martin Lishman is displaying examples from across its comprehensive range of trailed, mounted, demountable and self-propelled amenity sprayers. The Micro-Spray has demonstrated its worth at Oakham School, where head of grounds Richard Dexter notes that it is easy to operate and control. Dexter also plans to extend use of Lishman’s Compost Tea. “We have already noticed the benefits, particularly with the breakdown of organic matter,” he says. “When we relied on granular fertiliser, we could make applications only during the school holidays. The fact that we can now apply Compost Tea during term time puts us in full control of our application programme.”

If you want to know what is in your soil, ask DJ Turfcare Equipment. The company will be promoting a new testing service for users of its Viano lawn product. “With sales of our organic products showing an increase this year, we have found a need for people to have a proper understanding of their soil requirements,” says managing director David Jenkins. “Clients will be able to send us a sample of soil and a scientific laboratory will give a full analysis. We can then advise on exactly the right products to use to alter pH for maximum growth and strength in their lawns.”

Among the products supplied by DJ Turfcare are Viano Bio-Lime, Recovery, Green Comfort and MO Bacter. Sales of all have risen since last year.

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