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.


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