Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Hot Fingerprint Trends in 2005

What are the major fingerprint-recognition trends going to be in 2005? Vendors share their views with A&S.

By Jason Tan

Historically, fingerprint biometrics has been used as a forensic tool for law-enforcement agencies.

However, “more commercial applications of biometrics will continue to develop over the next few years. Applications that replace passwords and personal-identification numbers (PINs) will proliferate in the market to a greater degree in 2005,” said Colin Soutar, chief technology officer at Bioscrypt, a provider of fingerprint technology based in Canada.

Biometrics is seen as becoming a tool for user authentication on portable devices for many applications.

More Fingerprint-enabled Gadgets
As portable devices are used to protect or access assets, the need for biometrics authentication will increase to provide security, convenience and non-repudiation. These portable devices will be both existing devices, such as cell phones and PDAs, as well as new dedicated biometrics modules, he said.

His views are seconded by Karl Audaert, regional sales manager at Upek Inc., a fingerprint security-solution provider based in the U.S. with offices in Singapore and the Czech Republic.

For consumer and corporate markets, Audaert envisions notebooks with fingerprint features making stronger waves in 2005.

According to him, notebooks embedded with fingerprint authentication are not something new, but in line with IBM, which jumped onto the bandwagon during the last quarter of 2004, other makers will certainly follow suit.

“IBM is a well-known brand with a good image for its high-end notebooks and superior quality. Its participation in biometrics will cause quite a stir,” said Audaert. The company expects that fingerprint recognition will become standard to all notebooks by 2008.

In addition, fingerprint USB flash drives are expected to be “in” as well.

Current USB flash drives are capable of providing storage of up to one gigabyte, and as storage expands, users are inclined to store more data such as e-mail. In order to prevent loss of valuable information, adding fingerprint protection is definitely the way to go, said Audaert.

When bundled with software, fingerprint USB flash drives can serve as a means to access PCs so users need no PINs. “This will go beyond basic functions of common USBs,” concluded Audaert.

In 2004, a handful of mobile phones with fingerprint-recognition features were introduced. Audaert, however, does not think they will sell like hot cakes in the market this year.

He said that most consumers use phones mainly to make calls, and are less concerned about phone security as opposed to when they use notebooks. Unless telecommunications operators come up with more mobile commercial services, such as wireless banking, it will probably take another two years for fingerprint phones to grab attention.

Governing Biometrics
"One major trend in 2005 will be the use of fingerprint technology in combination with national identity cards,” stated Christer Bergman, chief executive officer and president of Precise Biometrics, a Sweden-based provider of biometrics security solutions using fingerprint authentication.

“Here, we are seeing more and more projects asking for Match-on-Card--the technology where fingerprint templates are stored on smartcards and smartcard processors are used for comparison. Hence, fingerprint templates never leave the smartcards. This is desirable both in terms of user privacy and overall system performance,” said Bergman.

Another area to focus on will be International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)-related documents and border-crossing documents such as passports and visas that require biometrics.

“The global driver for these projects is fear of terrorism and identity theft. Technological challenges include pushing for wider deployment, while remaining easy-to-use, secure and reliable,” he explained.

The main market remains government projects. “We see both the health-care and financial sectors picking up as mandatory regulations are implemented.”

Echoing his view, Audaert added that Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore are among the Asian countries that have adopted biometrics in passports and national identity cards or have plans to do so soon.

Audaert cited MyKad--the Malaysian identity card, which incorporates features such as fingerprint biometrics and medical history, while serving as a driving license, ATM and electronic purse. The government plans to use it even as a travel document to replace passports for border transit among neighboring countries.

It is compulsory for citizens above 12 years old to have a MyKad by end of this year; everyone will, therefore, be carrying a smartcard with them. This presents huge opportunities to develop more applications, added Audaert.

However, there must be standards for all countries using biometrics passports or smart identity cards to ensure compatibility on different infrastructures. As more nations embark on similar initiatives, ensuring that a standards body oversees the process is imperative.

Bridging the Gap
Soutar elaborated, “The ability of vendors to support varied fingerprint sensors that will be encountered in a mixed physical and logical access environment will be extremely important.”

As the biometrics industry and market continue to mature, product vendors will be required to conform to industry standards of interoperability, performance and functional specifications. This is especially true for government procurement of biometrics technologies.

“Vendors who have invested in standards development through processes, such as INCITS M1, ISO and IEC SC37 for biometrics, and the Common Criteria, will begin to realize dividends on their investments over the next five years,” said Soutar.

Alex Hsieh, project manager of financial business department at Arachnoid Biometric Identification Group (ABIG), added that as sensors from different brands operate on various algorithms, fingerprint enrollment done on Company A’s sensor might not be able to process verification with a sensor from Company B.

As such, it is critical for vendors to deploy the “Cross Fingerprint Sensor Matching Technology”, which is capable of verifying fingerprint on sensors of numerous brands, making verification and enrollment a breeze to the users.

“Introduction of technologies, such as our Bio-One solution, will create demand,” claimed Hsieh.

In addition, he predicts that swipe sensors will take center stage this year.

According to Hsieh, a handful of gadgets with fingerprint-recognition features launched in 2004 are using swipe sensors. Take Pantech’s GI100 handset, IBM’s Thinkpad T42 series notebook and HP’s iPAQ h5450 for example.

Compared with old-generation sensors, swipe sensors offer more precise recognition at costs that are 50 percent lower. Many manufacturers have, thus, jumped into the rush of producing swipe sensors.

In addition, computer-peripherals manufacturers are also seriously considering embedding fingerprint-chip modules into more gadgets to add value.

Hsieh noted that ABIG--a Taiwanese biometrics technology provider--has collaborated with chip makers and hardware companies to develop more swipe sensor-embedded devices. Some are ready for launch in the first quarter of 2005.

“We will launch our latest biometrics solution, Comprehensive Biometric Identification Solution (CBIS), in the first quarter,” said Hsieh. “CBIS will include Bio-One and a robust matching engine to support search speeds from 40,000 to 2,000,000 matches per second.”

Such solutions can be applied to many major domains, such as border security, civil identity, financial institutes and banking, access control and corporate applications.



Responding to Market Needs
Using a very small physical area, fingerprint is the only biometrics technology that can be added inexpensively to devices such as computers or portable electronics as well as equipment, such as automated teller machines or time clocks.

The desire for increased security and convenience will continue to escalate heightening demand. As with any new technology, proof of performance, interoperability and product quality will spur adoption, said Colin Soutar, chief technology officer at Bioscrypt.

Bioscrypt’s technology is targeted broadly across industry sectors with particular emphasis on commercial deployments or non-AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) markets, explained Soutar.

“By having a broad range of products to meet the requirements of a diverse set of applications, the response from our installed base has been excellent and we plan on continuing to leverage our history of successes to further penetrate the market,” he asserted.

“Our success is based on solid offerings, robust finger-pattern-recognition algorithms, strong customer support and assistance, and dedication to developing competitive technology,” said Soutar.

The company will launch products in 2005 that maintain its competitive position in the biometrics industry. Innovative and quality product offerings are key to the success of biometrics vendors, said Soutar, without revealing product details.

In addition, it will continue to work closely with distribution channels in bringing products to the market. “For licensing and logical-access applications, we will provide direct sales and marketing support for our products,” he said.

To respond to market trends, Precise Biometrics plans to launch a couple of more products and solutions initiatives during the course of 2005.

According to Christer Bergman, chief executive officer and president at Precise Biometrics, these initiatives will support the company’s Match-on-Card strategy in large smart ID-card projects.

“This means that we will see products having an even more secure architecture that are easier to use. We will also see initiatives in the multi-biometrics area,” said Bergman.

To cause a bigger impact on the market, Precise Biometrics will stick with its current marketing strategy, which is to work closely with major partners around the world to support major end-user initiatives.

Biometrics Shifting into Non-governmental Sector

Biometric applications are expected to continue to cause a stir in the security industry in 2005.

By Jason Tan

More biometric implementations for non-governmental projects were taking off worldwide in 2004.

Among all, LG Electronics and Fujitsu unveiled fingerprint-enabled mobile phones with enhanced security to cater to the consumers’ needs. Over in Singapore, patrons of Mary Chia Beauty & Slimming Specialist started to use fingerprints to open up lockers to secure belongings.

As such, will non-governmental sectors overtake government to become the major biometric adopters this year?

“The government sector is and will continue be the largest segment in the biometric industry due to the increasing security measures of post 9/11 and new laws that mandate biometric implementation in the U.S. for instance,” pointed out Prianka Chopra, Frost & Sullivan’s biometrics, smartcards and security program manager.

However, on the non-governmental side, one must not rule out the immense potential from the commercial/enterprise and consumer markets in the future. “Within enterprise, certain verticals such as the financial and healthcare sectors are likely to be more inclined to adopt biometric technologies,” she said.

Biometric technologies can be used for a variety of applications such as physical access control and network security in these markets. The driving forces include legislations that mandate the security of individual records, cost savings and convenience from automating business processes, she added.

There are also some efforts underway to use biometric devices within automobiles. Growth drivers include the steadily declining prices of biometric devices and the increased awareness of consumers on biometrics, she informed.

Seconded this, Art Stewart, vice president of business development at AuthenTec, said that although government-related biometric applications have drawn most of the attention, the fastest growing segment has actually been in the consumer biometric arena.

Rising of Consumer Biometric Products
“Today, there are more than 4 million consumer biometric products in use, primarily in cell phones, notebook computers and PC peripherals. We definitely expect this trend to continue in 2005,” he claimed.

This is largely driven by the changes in cost, size and accuracy of biometric technologies, as well as the increased consumer demand of better security and convenience in their devices.

On the technology side, biometric fingerprint sensors that were US$40 and about one inch square five years ago are now under $6 and smaller than a pencil point, Stewart informed.

Advances in the technology have also made these same sensors much more accurate, with new sub-surface sensors capable of reading virtually any fingerprint, under nearly any conditions, he added.

On the consumer demand side, the need to protect computers and mobile phones from fraud and theft has led to calls for higher level of security. The traditional password approach has become too cumbersome, thus making biometrics a perfect means of providing both convenience and security.

A recent survey commissioned by AuthenTec shows that 63 percent of PC owners and 71 percent of handset users in the U.S., would pay extra to have a fingerprint sensor added to their devices to enjoy a new level of convenience and security.

“We believe this will likely be the same around much of the world,” he asserted.

Indeed, the biometric market is set to fly off to greater heights.

According to Frost & Sullivan's recent biometric research, the global biometric market will record US$2,075 million in 2006, nearly seven-fold from $303 million in 2003. The market is projected to hit $3,548 million in 2009.

According to Chopra, the majority of the market revenues will come from the government as well as travel and transportation vertical markets. However, a good part of them will be contributed by physical access control, time and attendance, transactional authentication (at the retail/ATM) from the commercial/enterprise sector.

“The adoption of biometrics--particularly fingerprint biometrics--will continue to grow significantly in 2005 and beyond,” added Stewart.

This will be driven by more PC and handset manufacturers incorporating biometrics into the equipment as a regular feature. With the tremendous volume of mobile phones and computers sold worldwide each year, this will create tremendous opportunities for fingerprint sensors.

AuthenTec said that Asia will sustain its lead as the largest and fastest growing region for biometrics this year, followed by the U.S. and Europe.

Currently, 70 to 80 percent of the consumer biometric use is in Asia--primarily in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.

“We believe that these markets will keep on expanding, with significant opportunities for growth in China, especially in the cell phone market. In addition, we expect the biometric market will begin to take off in the U.S. and Europe beginning this year,” he informed.

Fingerprint Still Rules
This year, fingerprint application is expected to be the highest volume, fastest growing form of biometrics among others, as what happened in the past.

“This is due to the fact that it is the only practical solution for high-volume consumer applications. Many of the other biometric technologies are typically involved in larger, more expensive solutions requiring larger systems to operate,” informed Stewart.

Fingerprint biometrics will flourish in the existing consumer market, and be designed into an increasing number of applications that are still on the drawing table. This does not even include several other market opportunities, such as automotive and access control, which also pose large opportunities when they begin to boom, he said.

Chopra also forecasts that fingerprint recognition will continue its dominance in the biometric industry, though its market share will decrease over time.

According to her, fingerprint will still be deployed in all types of applications, including physical access control, transactional authentication, ID confirmation in government projects, wireless device security and others.

On the other hand, facial recognition and iris recognition are slated to gain more momentum, as they are expected to reap in market share particularly in the travel-and-transportation vertical market.

In the case of hand geometry, this technology will maintain its forte in the physical access control and time-and-attendance markets. Voice and signature biometrics will focus on automating business processes in the commercial segment.

Boosting the Uptake
In general, the major drivers for enlarged use of biometrics this year will be bigger adoption by electronic manufacturers, and rising demand by consumers.

“Biometrics is still at its early stage of adoption, and has gained tremendous traction in 2004, which should continue into 2005 with more cell phone, PC manufacturers and service providers jumping onto the rush,” Stewart stated.

Once consumers are exposed to this convenient form of security, they will demand the feature in future purchases. “The major challenge will be in gaining the additional footing that will help make biometrics more mainstream and a must-have in every type of electronic device,” he said.

In Chopra’s views, major drivers for the biometric market include rising awareness and exposure of biometrics; laws and mandates to implement these applications in the government segment, as well as opportunities from the travel-and-transportation vertical such as airports.

However, privacy concerns are still a major deterrent, and the adoption depends on real-world performance of biometrics which could be different from vendor claims. In addition, needs for continuous technical advancements require large investments, and issues such as high cost of biometric devices relative to alternative technologies need to be addressed, she pointed out.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

IBM Launches Fingerprint Notebook

IT giant IBM has recently introduced a fingerprint reader packaged into its newest notebook, the ThinkPad T42 series.

Only a finger scan is required to gain log-on access to the portable computer and its contents, delivering simplified access to password-protected personal and financial information, Web sites, documents and e-mail.

Located on the wrist rest below the arrow keys near the lower right edge of the notebook, the fingerprint reader is combined with an embedded security subsystem to provide a layer of built-in security.

Citing reports, Laurence Hwang, general manager of personal systems group of IBM Taiwan, said at a recent product launch that there are over 300,000 cases of stolen laptops reported each year in the U.S. alone. As such, securing confidential data in the notebook has become imperative.

The ThinkPad T42 series has incorporated biometrics into the notebooks, not only resolving the issues of remembering lengthy passwords, but also provides enhanced security, he claimed.

The laptop is able to offer up to 21 registered templates of authorized users, and they can register any of the fingers, Hwang added. A user must swipe his or her finger across the small, horizontal sensor to log on to the computer.

According to IBM, this type of fingerprint reader captures more data than a traditional picture-capture window. It scans more of the fingertip’s surface area, helping to prevent misidentification.

The swiping and recognition process is said to take less than one minute. In the same timeframe, multiple users can be registered with a scan and added to the approved boot sequence in much the same fashion as shared users register their passwords in Windows.

Taiwanese computer maker Acer was the first in the industry to introduce notebook with fingerprint authentication four years ago. However, IBM expects to stir up the market by unveiling its first model of biometrics-enabled laptop.

“The uniqueness of our product is that the fingerprint templates are incorporated onto our proprietary security chip but not the hard disk, which has risks of being invaded by unauthorized parties,” stressed Albert Lu, associate marketing manager of personal systems group.

With the chip already providing the utmost security to the laptops, the fingerprint feature will add on extra level of “convenience” to users as they can just make good use of their fingers to gain access, he said.

The ThinkPad T42 is mainly targeted at enterprise and heavy users. Lu revealed that IBM does not rule out the possibility of bundling the fingerprint function into other lower-end models, depending on the market response and arising needs.

Unlocking PC with Penpower’s FaceMetrix

Forget about the lengthy passwords for PC logon. Penpower Technology Ltd. has recently launched the FaceMetrix Logon, a software for PC users to utilize facial recognition to access the computers.

Users just need to take a look at the webcam, and the computer will recognize its master showing up and unlocks itself immediately, said the Taiwan-based company.

For a start, users have to get a USB PC camera with a minimum resolution of 380,000 pixels ready. The computers must be equipped with Intel Pentium III or above, and have a minimum of 128 MB RAM.

To enroll, they need to rotate the face in front of the camera and 20 facial prints will be collected for building facial models. When users log on, they need not to enter a username or passwords, but to face the camera and the computer will extract facial characteristics from the viewing area and find a match. The search will run throughout all enrollees in the database and look for a match in less than one second.

According to William Law, sales engineer of Penpower’s solution integration department, the FaceMetrix Logon is capable of acting as a surveillance software as well. It will automatically take photos of those unauthorized attempting to access the PCs in the viewing area, and record the time. This will allow follow-up examination and tighten the data security.

Compared to the computers which embed fingerprint recognition to replace passwords, facial recognition offers the benefits of non-direct physical contact, thus reducing the chances of ruining the equipment, he added.

“Facial recognition has mainly been used for access control in the past. We see a trend of this biometrics application becoming more involved with people’s daily life this year,” he claimed. As such, the company aims to boost the adoption of facial recognition in the consumer segment by introducing the FaceMetrix Logon.