Testing Bioscrypt's V-Flex Fingerprint ReaderBy Brian Rhodes, Published on Jul 25, 2014
With fingerprint readers available for as little as $100, why would you pay more? Consider MorphoTrust's Bioscrypt V-Flex 4G, a unit that regularly costs seven or eight times more than the $100 models. Is it worth the extra cost, and if so, what does the extra expense buy you?
We bought one of these readers, and take a hands-on look at Bioscrypt's basic finderprint in this note that includes 4 videos and our test findings.
The key findings of our test include:
- Complex Configuration: The V-Flex 4G is not a simple device to deploy, and requires in-depth unit configuration, software installation, and database population on a networked workstation. System designers should expect each reader to take three to four times more labor to configure and install at each site than the 'typical' non-biometric smartcard reader. More detail about the configuration will follow.
- Integrated or Stand Alone: In either configuration, the result was good. For systems where the V-Flex 4G is used only as a reader, the accompanying management software allow for substantial tweaking of Wiegand outputs and reader behavior. For 'stand-alone' use, only a checkbox selection is needed to switch the unit over to controlling attached locks and interfacing with system sensors. In both modes, the central management software "SecureAdmin' was comprehensive, if not complex, for configuring the units.
- Sensor Accuracy: We enrolled one finger three times (three templates) from three subjects each. After 100 consecutive reads from those subjects (33 reads from each subject), the unit measured 100 out of 100 correct reads, with no errors. Contrasted with 87% accuracy for the $100 unit, the '100% correct' result is a clear improvement.
- Software: Included 'SecureAdmin' enables networked centralized management of multiple units, and includes good 'Help' documentation. However, the software is designed to support the entire V-Flex 4G product series and includes many management controls and features that did not apply to our unit. Understanding which features were supported, versus which simply may not have been configured properly was difficult. Overall, the functions of the unit are manageable at a deep level, but the overall complexity of the interface will confuse casual users.
- Field Serviceable Sensor: The V-Flex 4G uses a fingerprint sensor module that can be swapped out if damaged. Rather than forcing users to buy new readers and reprogramming them entirely, the module can be replaced in the field for less than $125.
- Price: The V-Flex 4G units range between $600 - $800 based on features like HID credential readers, ruggedized coatings, and outdoor housings. The model use in our test has a street price of ~$700, that was an indoor-only, HID licensed unit.
We examine these aspects in the sections that follow.
Here are the feature claims or characteristics we found most important:
- Wiegand Output: The unit's wiegand output feature makes it useful to most access system. The exact format of the output string can be configured to resemble stock credentials (ie: 26 bit prox, 33 bit DSX, or 37 bit HID) or custom configured using a wizard for any length, parity bit orientation, or facility code format needed by the parent system. We connected the unit to an Axis A1001 and used wiegand with no issues.
- IP based, but USB is Easier: The V-Flex 4G can be connected to ethernet and PoE power, but it does not have an integrated webserver, meaning client software must be used. Furthermore, finding the unit's default IP address first requires a user to locally access the reader with a USB cable. Many users will find the USB connection method quicker and easier for configuration tasks.
- Software Needed: Configuration clients must be downloaded to tweak unit settings. Instead of hitting a webpage at the unit's IP, users must use a workstation loaded with SecureAdmin software.
- Sensor Type: The V-Flex comes equipped with a 500 DPI 'near-infrared' optical sensor that includes 'liveness' checking for heartbeats. The quality of reads were high, as no errant reads or mistakes were registered.
- Local Enrollment: The unit's sensor can be used to add fingerprints to the user library, instead of requiring a separate USB connected sensor required by some units.
The V-Flex 4G we tested was an indoor-only model, but could be used in temperate climates outside if shielded from direct moisture, dirt, and sunlight and is rated for use between 32° and 140° F. If direct contact with rain, ice, or snow is an issue a water-resistant model is available for about $80 more. Overall build quality of the unit was good and is comparable or better than typical access control readers.
The video below demonstrates the overall construction of the unit, how it mounts, and the general condition of reading a fingerprint:
Initially registering the unit to work on an ethernet network first requires finding the unit by directly connecting through USB, a somewhat cumbersome process we summarize below:
The unit's mounting box is irregularly sized, and may prove challenging to mount on typical electrical junction boxes or recessing into drywall. While lacking an alpha-numeric display, the user simply places a finger on the unit to initiate a read, or is prompted to place fingers on the sensor by yellow LEDs after a proximity card is read. Overall, even users that have no experience with fingerprint readers will likely pick it up after first being enrolled into the unit.
Registering users into the reader is done one at a time, which may be cumbersome for large systems. However, once a user is built into the unit, the record can be copied onto other networked readers. Enrolling a user's fingerprint takes place in a four-step wizard that can be completed in about three minutes and gives feedback on the quality of each read. The video below details the process:
Here is an example 'Fingerprint Quality' screen, that displays the fidelity score of each reading:
Users have the chance to re-enroll and optimize the print from inside the wizard during the process, facilitating good production use of the reader.
Connecting the unit to an access system, typically to a controller or interface module, can be done by using SecureAdmin's 'Wiegand' configurator. The video below shows how comprehensive the configuration can be, resulting in a fingerprint being received by the parent system as if it were a common credential card.
While the unit's ~$700 pricetag places it at the high end of fingerprint readers, the unit's in-depth configurability might actually mean it is less expensive to integrate into access systems than cheaper but kludgy readers with poor management tools and configurability.
Overall performance turned up no major problems, although the complexity of the unit and the management software could be a problem for 'non-power' casual users.
One member's feedback to us complained about more broad company issues with Bioscrypt:
"The key problem with Bioscrypt is their corporate culture. They are very slow to respond to issues, especially after they were purchased by Sagem Morpho. It appears that their upper management does not care about the customer. No one in my group likes working with them. "
The member also noted that production reader performance is slow compared to other fingerprint readers.