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Biometric vs RFID Access Control: Which is Better?

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Aug 01, 2023
  • RFID
Biometric vs RFID Access Control

Access control is an important security measure taken by different types of organizations. These systems prevent unauthorized people from gaining access to the premises. There are many types of such systems, that use different technologies to maintain security. The two most popular systems are biometrics & RFID. So, today we will discuss the notion of Biometrics vs RFID Access Control Systems.

What is an Access Control System?

This refers to a system within an organization that is responsible for providing authorized personnel, access to a facility/area. An access control system can be manned or automated. These systems are in use across a variety of industries like Public Parking Facilities, Transportation, Office Space, etc.

Access Control Systems consist of many operations like identifying personnel, creating and granting different levels of access authorization, tracking the movement of personnel in and out of a facility, attendance systems, etc.

Difference Between Biometric & RFID Access Control Systems

Now that you know the basics of an access control system, let’s check out the two most basic types of such systems. Both these types of systems use different technologies to operate, they have their advantages & disadvantages. These two are – Biometric Access Control and RFID Access Control.

Biometric Access Control System

The term biometric refers to the collection and analysis of unique features of a person, like their facial structure, fingerprints, etc. Biometric access control systems, as the name suggests, identify personnel using these characteristics. These systems can be of different types, based on the type of biometrics they use to identify people.

The most common types of biometric systems are – Facial Recognition, Fingerprint Scanners, Retina Scanners, Iris Scanner, and Voice recognition. 

(A). Facial Recognition

These systems use a high-resolution camera to capture a picture of the subject’s face. Then it uses a combination of image processing algorithms and programs to identify a face in the image. Once it identifies a human face, it uses another set of algorithms to analyze various facial features like their shape, size, distance, etc., and compare it with the stored images in the database.

(B). Fingerprint Scanner

Fingerprint scanners come in all shapes and sizes; you can find them anywhere from your smartphones to gate security systems. Basically, there are two types of these systems. They use a small camera to capture a detailed image of a person’s fingerprint patterns. The system then analyses different parts of the fingerprints like the ridges, islands, bifurcation, etc. Once the image is analyzed, it is compared to all the other images in the database. This is known as Optical Scanning.

Another technology these systems can use is known as Capacitive Scanning. In these systems, the scanner consists of a layer where the user will put their pinger. Beneath the layer is an array of micro capacitors. When the skin comes in contact with the surface, the ridges touching the surface change the charge in the capacitors. The sensors use these fluctuations to create an image of the fingerprint. These systems are more complex and expensive than the Optical Recognition systems, but they are also more accurate.

(C). Retina Scanner

As the name suggests, these systems identify people using the distinct patterns of the blood vessels of their retinas. These scanners use an infrared laser to illuminate the retina. Then, an IR sensor captures the images of the blood vessels on the retina and uses image processing techniques to match them with the database.

(D). Iris Scanner

Similar to retina scanners, these systems identify people using their eyes too. An iris scanner uses light to illuminate the surface of the eye. A high-resolution then captures an image of the iris muscles and compares it with the database.

RFID Access Control System

This stands for Radio Frequency Identification; it’s a technology that uses radio waves to communicate data and act as an authentication provider. These systems use a PVC card with an inlay inside of it. This inlay consists of the identification information of the personnel using it. For authentication purposes, these systems use an NFC reader.

These readers are present at checkpoints like at the main entrance of the facility, and at different sections of the facility (files room, conference room, offices, etc.). The readers are then connected to the central database and security system through either cables or wireless networks. These systems can also create different levels of security clearance and offer people access only to certain areas, based on their job profile and seniority level.

Comparative Analysis Between Biometric & RFID Access Control Systems

By now you probably have the gist of how both these types of access control systems operate. So, now it’s time to do a comparison between these two systems and check out which one is better. There are some basic criteria along which we can run a comparison.

(A). Price

The biggest point of contention between RFID and biometrics systems is the overall cost. RFID has a far lower cost of implementation than biometrics. In order to implement an RF system, a user needs to use NFC readers at the access points and PVC cards to act as ID cards. In the case of biometric systems, each checkpoint needs a separate machine that then has to be connected to the central server.

(B). Accuracy & Security

When it comes to accuracy & security, biometric systems beat RF systems by a large margin. RF systems can suffer from rare misreads, and you can bypass them by stealing someone’s ID card. On the other hand, biometric systems are very accurate and almost impossible to fool. Stealing a card is one thing, but it is impossible to steal someone’s retina structure. Both systems have their advantages & disadvantages.

(C). Data Storage

The readers are connected directly to the database, giving it a large storage capacity. However, in the case of biometric systems, the storage capacity is severely limited. Some fingerprint scanners can only store up to 50 scans.


Both technologies have their own advantages & disadvantages. For example, RF systems provide good security & tracking capabilities for a fraction of the cost, and it is easier to scale. On the other hand, biometric systems provide more secure operations.

The best course of action, if you can afford it, is to combine both these systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the difference between RFID and biometrics?

The basic difference between RFID & biometrics is that RF systems use radio signals to communicate identification information between the readers and the ID cards. This information is then sent to the database which grants access.

Biometrics, on the other hand, uses different technologies to identify personnel, based on their biometric features like face, fingerprints, etc.

Q2. What is RFID access control?

An RFID access control system is a system that provides authorized personnel with access to a facility, using RFID technology.

Q3. What are the 3 types of biometric security devices?

There are three primary types of biometric systems are-

•   Facial Recognition

•   Fingerprint Recognition

•   Optical Scanning Recognition

Q4. What are the three types of RFID?

There are various criteria one can use to differentiate RFID into different classes. Based on the frequency at which they operate, you can divide RFID into three types.

•   Low Frequency (134 KHz)

•   High Frequency (13.56 MHz)

•   Ultra-High Frequency (860 to 950 MHz)

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  • Created on Aug 01, 2023

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