Biometrics gain in consumer products with promise of convenience, security
SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Imagine that running your index finger over a sensor embedded in your computer logs you on, and then swiping the same sensor with your middle finger opens your Word program and your ring finger gets you into Excel.
Sound futuristic? It's not. It's just one way fingerprint scanners embedded in computers today work to protect data and reduce the need to remember multiple passwords: Your fingerprints become a password manager, and a designated keystroke.
U.S. consumers are increasingly likely to run across such devices that use biometrics -- biological characteristics such as fingerprints, faces, irises and other means to authenticate someone's identity. From the supermarket to the cell phone, biometric products are making inroads as an alternative to the variety of passwords and PINs consumers use today.
In some grocery-store check-out lanes, customers who've preregistered their fingerprint can simply swipe their finger to have their grocery bill deducted from their checking account. You don't need to bring your wallet, nor remember your loyalty card. Pay By Touch, maker of fingerprint scanners used by grocery-store chains including Piggly Wiggly in the South and Albertson's Jewel-Osco stores in the Midwest, says it has 2.3 million people enrolled in various fingerprint-authentication programs.
Hewlett-Packard Co. says it now offers fingerprint scanners in 80% of the laptop computers it aims at the business market.
In Japan, customers at some automated-teller machines place their hand in a scanner for access to their accounts.
Five million cell phones in Japan and Korea are embedded with fingerprint sensors to restrict access to the photos, e-mails and address books stored there, said Jim Burke, a vice president at Melbourne, Fla.-based AuthenTec, maker of those 5 million scanners plus others used in computers and other devices. That cell-phone technology will be available in cell phones in the U.S. in 2007, Burke estimates.....for more of the story