Where are they now?

How six start-ups fared in the two-factor authentication market

We focused on six start-ups in our May 2007 article. Only two are still operating with the same name and the same product line.

Pay by Touch has gone bankrupt. Its kiosks, which let consumers make purchases with a simple fingerprint scan, were deployed in more than 3,000 retail locations, mostly in Europe and Asia but also at some Albertsons, Jewel-Osco and Lowes Foods stores in the U.S. Founder John P. Rogers is now facing a number of investor lawsuits, and the company's assets were purchased by CardWorks Processing in April.

Cogneto, which offered cognitive or memory-based authentication, has gone through much turmoil. Cogneto split into two companies, one in Canada, one in London. The Canadian version has filed for bankruptcy, while the London Cogneto is a one-person operation that "doesn't have any customers" and has "burned through about $5 million," according to David Eppert, who originally developed the intellectual property and sold it to Cogneto. 

Now, Eppert has reacquired the intellectual property and patents and formed Think Security. "The big problem with authentication is that everyone uses sensitive information to authenticate. Even biometric databases can be hacked. We're working on a way to authenticate without using sensitive data," Eppert says. He declined to disclose further details of how this works and how Think Security databases repel hackers.

Two start-ups, Passfaces and Porticus Technology, exist pretty much as they did in May 2007. Passfaces relies on the fact that the human brain is wired to recognize faces. Passfaces presents you with a grid of faces, from which you pick the one you recognize. After clicking through a few grids, your pattern of recognition can be counted on to uniquely identify you as a biometric factor. The company just signed up a Wisconsin credit union, which declined to be named. "This credit union proves that our solution scales," says CEO Paul Barret. "It only took a couple of months to roll it out to all of their customers, and it dramatically reduced their support costs."

Porticus hasn't disclosed any customers, but it recently signed a partnership with BBN Technologies, the result of which will be a voice-recognition transcription service. According to CEO Germano Di Mambro, the company is in the process of raising a new round of funding and has several customer deals nearly closed, including one with a major smart phone provider. Porticus also recently appointed a new CTO, Jerry Ruggieri, formerly with Fidelity Investments.

BioPassword is now doing business as AdmitOne Security. The company's core technology identifies individuals by their unique keyboard typing patterns. However, AdmitOne has broadened its technology recently. "Keystroke recognition is just a factor, not a complete solution, and customers want complete identity assurance solutions," says Matthew Shanahan, senior vice president of marketing and strategy. AdmitOne's portfolio now includes risk-based authentication and revenue recovery. Customers include Bank of Sacramento and Parsons, Behle & Latimer.

Finally, Encentuate, which authenticated users via RFID tags that could be attached to ID badges or mobile phones, was acquired by IBM in March. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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