The time may finally be right for biometrics

* Upek's TCS5 TouchStrip Fingerprint Sensor

I've been following biometrics and, specifically, fingerprint technology for a past 10-12 years. Each time I think it's about to take off, the sizzle turns to a fizzle once again. But now the time might be right. Not that biometrics are any more acceptable (even though they are), nor that the accuracy has improved (even though it has), but because the right application has come along.

I was talking to Upek’s Rob Blau (Vice President of Development) a couple of weeks ago just to catch up on what’s new in biometrics. He wanted to talk about the “TCS5 TouchStrip Fingerprint Sensor,” the latest thing in fingerprint readers to be built into laptops, keyboards and other computing devices. It is impressive, but I’m not building computers (nor are most of you) so we won’t be buying these directly. Or will we?

There’s also the “eikon”, a USB-connecting fingerprint reader incorporating the TCS4 in a sleek little package, but that’s not all. The real clincher for me (and there’s one of these little devices plugged into my computer right now) is the application that comes along with it – a password vault. Train the reader (which only takes seconds) and it will watch – and learn – as you log in to accounts. The second, and subsequent, times you want to log in, simply swipe your finger through the reader. That means no more “easy to remember” passwords, no more sticky notes attached to the screen. Your Windows logon and all your browser (IE or Firefox) accesses can be controlled by a swipe of your fingertip. But wait, there’s more.

You have 10 fingers, right? Register all of them and then associate particular fingers with applications you use. Want your word processor? Swipe your left pinky. A Spreadsheet? Swipe you right thumb. The possibilities are enormous! For you coders there’s another mode I think might be useful. Upek mentions “fast user switching” in Windows (XP or Vista) as a possibility – swipe a finger associated with a different account and the PC acts as if you’ve done a logout and someone else has logged in. But think of the possibilities for those who set up elaborate, yet different, environments to do different tasks – one swipe of the finger and the whole environment switches!

This is single sign-on with extras – maybe SSO+ would be a better term. And one of those pluses is better security. This could, finally, be the key advancement that makes fingerprint readers as necessary as keypads for computers! (Compare Identity Management products)

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