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.

--

BOX:

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.

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