Monday, September 27, 2004

ATI aims to make waves with fingerprint ATMs

“In the past, it was hard to push our biometrics solutions to banks without complete, integrated end-products,” said Alex Hsieh, project manager of the Financial Business Department at Arachnoid Technology Inc. (ATI), a total biometrics-solution provider in Taiwan.

The company encountered refusals when pushing its solutions to local financial institutions in past years.

However, this is set to change as ATI has recently partnered with Wincor Nixdorf, a global top-three supplier of automated-teller machines (ATMs) and point-of-sale (POS) systems, for its Bio-ATM solution.

Catering to the banking environment, the solution incorporates fingerprint-recognition features into ATMs for added authentication purposes. Under the pact, ATI will supply fingerprint sensors, fingerprint modules, servers and related software to Wincor Nixdorf.

“Most important, solutions are now integrated and we have fingerprint ATMs ready to operate,” emphasized Hsieh.

As numerous mergers and acquisitions are taking place in the banking sector, various financial institutions are in search of unique products, services and solutions to stand out from the competition.

As such, ATI targets having at least one local bank deploy its Bio-ATM solution by the first quarter of next year; it will then replicate the business model in other countries.

According to figures from International Biometric Group, e-commerce, telephony, retail, ATM and POS applications are estimated to have a combined 6.1 percent share of biometrics-application revenue this year.

The number is comparatively low compared with criminal-identification applications--widely deployed by the public sector--which is expected to garner the highest revenues at 26.2 percent.

“Full-scale biometrics deployments are still limited to the financial sector in Asia,” Hsieh admitted.

But he is optimistic about market outlook as the public and financial sectors are the two most willing to invest in security solutions; ATI will continue its focus on these industries to further boost acceptance of biometrics solutions.

To start, the company hopes users accept its fingerprint ATMs voluntarily at the initial stage and go for wider adoption in the midterm. It will continue to seek partnerships with more banks and ATM vendors.

South Korea

Meanwhile, South Korean vendors Hunno Technologies Inc. and Hyosung Corp. announced a deal last year under which Hunno’s fingerprint-identification technology will be incorporated into ATMs manufactured by Hyosung.

Under the pact, Hunno supplies MS2600 fingerprint ID scanners--a biometrics-based identification system that prevents fraudulent-banking incidents by denying account access when attempted by unauthorized individuals with non-matching fingerprints.

Financial Sector Embracing Biometrics

According to International Biometric Group, annual biometrics revenue in the financial sector will expand 839 percent by 2008. As biometrics technologies have started to gain momentum in the banking sector, vendors are making waves in the market with major implementations.

Early this year, the Bank of China deployed fingerprint-recognition devices for its employees in more than 1,000 branches to secure assets, including vaults and bank mainframes.

Deployment of Bioscrypt V-Pass fingerprint readers beefed up security for employees and assets.

Bioscrypt Inc. claimed that its technology has changed the way Chinese banks view biometrics products, and that this will set the stage for the rest of the country.

“Enhanced security and ease of use are main advantages in using fingerprint-recognition technology, especially in the banking industry,” said Jordan benShea, product-marketing manager at Bioscrypt.

The provider of identity-verification technology asserted its solutions are capable of enhancing security where nonbiometrics technologies fail.

Popular in Fingerprints

“Many of our customers are deploying fingerprint readers to take advantage of Three Form Authentication--what you have (the ID card), what you know (the added security by using a PIN) and who you are (fingerprints for the final security advantage, something that cannot be stolen or misplaced),” she said.

However, primary obstacles are ensuring consistent enrolment and verification. “Using any biometrics on a daily basis can prove very challenging, as things can change from day to day, and people might have scratches or cuts,” she pointed out.

In addition, capturing quality images for the first time can prove difficult given the diverse nature of a large population of individuals.

Bioscrypt’s algorithm, however, is designed to accommodate these changes, she said. As its readers use RF-based sensor technology called True Print, they are able to capture “live” fingerprints located below the dead layer of skin that succumbs to all kinds of abuse.

“This allows our readers to capture quality images even if there are blemishes, dirt or other unknowns during the process,” she claimed.

Eyeing huge potential markets as biometrics technologies rapidly gain acceptance in the market, Bioscrypt recently released the Biometric Identity Management (BIM) application. This allows users to enroll just one time within an enterprise and, from that single enrollment, access PCs, doors, time-and-attendance as well as a whole host of other potential applications.

“We believe that an enterprise solution that is flexible for both logical and physical access, will allow our application to meet specific customer needs that will not force them to try to fit into our solutions. Providing biometrics solutions that address their growing concerns is the best strategy for us to take advantage of the uptake in technology,” she added.

Convenient Hand Readers

“Hand-geometry and fingerprint technologies complement each other and together encompass close to 80 percent of all biometrics access-control solutions,” said Bill Spence, director of marketing at IR Recognition Systems, a biometrics supplier for access-control and time-and-attendance applications.

He added that the physical access-control and time-and-attendance segment has been the largest revenue-generating application for the total biometrics market and its value is expected to rise.

One of its customer references is the Caribbean-based FirstBank Puerto Rico. It has deployed over 100 units of HandPunch 4000 terminals in 100 locations, including bank branches, corporate headquarters and affiliated businesses in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Tortola.

Instead of filling out or punching timecards, employees simply place their hands on the HandPunch. It automatically takes three-dimensional readings of the size and shape of employee hands and verifies user identity in less than one second.

As such, the bank is able to eliminate expenses associated with employee badges, buddy punching and unauthorized overtime.

It also manages to decentralize attendance functions from payroll to individual company units, turning over responsibility and ownership of the system to supervisors and employees.

“Biometrics technology offers a huge increase in security over the card-only system for the banking environment,” Spence stressed.

To increase market acceptance, the company is educating users on how each major biometrics fits specific applications. For instance, small user populations are where most fingerprint readers are being used successfully.

“We’ve designed a low-cost, yet robust biometrics access-control product targeted to meet that need. In these applications, total number of transactions tends to be fairly low. Therefore, user and administrative issues generated by higher error rates in fingerprint technology versus hand geometry end up being a minor inconvenience rather than a major hassle,” he said.

Sign to Pass

Meanwhile, Interlink Electronics Inc., the developer of intuitive-interface solutions, said unlike signature pads found in retail environments, the company’s ePad solution captures much more than simply the shape of handwritten signatures.

The system also records stylus pressure, stroke order and elapsed time.

Invisible biometrics not only guarantees security of documents, but also is employed to authenticate identity and security level of signers themselves.

Nationwide Building Society, the U.K.’s fifth largest mortgage lender, has employed Interlink’s ePad-ink electronic-signature products throughout its payment-processing system in a move to automate its internal check-payment process, increasing security and minimizing fraud.

The implementation utilizes pads to authenticate signatures to authorize payments at various levels.

ePad-ink, an electronic-signature input device, captures handwritten signatures with its integrated LCD input pad, converting them into biometrically-secure e-signatures. It then binds these permanently into Microsoft Word documents, Outlook e-mail, Adobe Acrobat PDF files, Internet documents as well as proprietary forms and transactions.

Voicing Up

With three call centers nearing call-volume capacity, Lloyds TSB, one of the largest banks in England, decided to find a better way to manage customer-care operations.

Rather than opening another costly call center, it turned to Nuance and Nortel Networks to develop a voice-driven banking system: PhoneBank Express.

Powered by Nuance speech-recognition software, PhoneBank Express allows Lloyd’s customers to get account balances, review transactions, pay bills and retrieve ministatement information, all through simple voice commands. For example, they can say, “transfer 500 pounds from currents to savings please” or “give me the balance in my current account.”

Since its launch in 1997, PhoneBank Express has handled over 40 million calls and 65 million transactions. Customer satisfaction has also been impressive--over 90 percent of customers rated the service as “good or better.”

In addition to Nuance, major voice-recognition vendors include Configate, SpeakEZ Inc. and Veritel Corp.