Schneider Electric today announced it is launching the world’s first industrial switch to use biometric fingerprint-recognition technology in order to grant employee access to sensitive areas and machine functions. Schneider Electric’s Harmony™ Biometric Switch is the first fingerprint-reading device designed specifically for industrial environments where security is highly critical to everyday functions, but manufacturing conditions require security systems to be “industrially hardened.”
 “Until now, this type of technology has not been available for use in industrial settings due to the often extreme conditions found in the plant,” says Selin Yilmaz, push button product manager for Schneider Electric. “Every plant manager knows the safety and operational consequences of unauthorized access: it can halt production, damage products being manufactured or disrupt your supply chain – and pose risk to employees, engineers and millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. This biometric technology, designed for plant conditions, can provide companies with more effective protection, while saving time and money and increasing productivity.”
The Harmony™ Biometric Switch reads fingerprint patterns to verify that someone is authorized to access sensitive areas and machine functions through an anonymous process in which fingerprints serve only to authorize access, not confirm an individual’s identity. Fingerprint readers have been shown to be more effective and efficient than other security systems, and they can also save money long-term. Fingerprint readers– unlike passwords, swipe cards or pin numbers – can’t be lost, stolen, borrowed, guessed or forgotten. Industry experts estimate that up to 40 percent of all calls to IT help desks stem from password problems, and the average cost of each call ranges from $10 to $31.
Simliar to a key operated selector switch the Harmony™ Biometric Switch has two operating modes: on-off mode or pulse mode for momentary action. Authentication takes less than one second, and the false acceptance rate is less than 0.1 percent. The switches can remember up to 200 fingerprints, including several fingers from the same operator, for additional flexibility and precision.  This new switch fits in a standard 22mm push button mounting hole, resists mechanical shock and vibration, protects against EMC noise and UV light, meets IP65 and NEMA 12 standards, and offers an optional protective cover and guard. 
The new switch is designed for areas of a plant with strict access restrictions, such as:
Dangerous processes, including extreme motion, or when servicing or setting-up processes need to be limited to authorized personnel.
When there is a need to switch machines to maintenance mode or reset emergency stops.
Access to certain interior rooms and equipment, such as garage doors, or to control changes to parameters in PLC programs or limit who can download data.
Wherever it becomes necessary to replace key-operated selector switches, badges, codes and passwords.
The Harmony Biometric Switch is fully stand-alone – there’s no need for a supplementary interface, USB cable or port, CD or DVD for operating instructions – and it’s compact and easy to install. It can be mounted in a standard 22mm push button cut-out and connected quickly using bared wires or an M12 connector.
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