Home' Technology Review : July August 2010 Contents Biometric recognition—the use of biologi-
cal markers such as fingerprints, iris scans,
facial structures or DNA for identification—
has begun to move into the mainstream.
Governments around the world are rolling
out national identity cards that feature bio-
metric identification. The U.S. government
has been promoting biometrics-based
identity cards for employees at the nation’s
ports, and has already printed more than
4 million cards for government employees
that contain such authentication. And nine
of the top ten PC companies offer some
system of biometric security on at least
one laptop model.
At the present time, fraud and identity
theft threaten business and government
activities around the world; biometrics-
based IDs can provide a level of assur-
ance beyond the typical PIN-code and
Detailing the Biology
Successful biometrics technology de-
mands highly accurate biological images.
AuthenTec, based in Melbourne, Florida,
developed a sensor that goes beyond
the usual practice of employing optics to
recognize a fingerprint’s peaks and valleys.
AuthenTec’s sensor employs radio frequen-
cies (RFs) to excite molecules in the living
layer of skin where fingerprints are formed.
“ Th is RF technology allows us to over-
come surface conditions of the skin, where
fingerprints can be worn, calloused, dirty,
or oily,” says AuthenTec president Larry
Ciaccia. AuthenTec supplies its biometrics
component to consumer electronics manu-
facturers for use in more than 55 million
PCs, cell phones, and other biometrics-
It’s a continuing challenge to achieve
the highest possible resolution and thus
the most accurate identification. Cross
Match Technology, based in Palm Beach
Gardens, designed optical scanners that
surpass FBI requirements for fingerprint
collection. Its latest scanners can even
identify sweat pores that dot the ridges.
“ More data leads to more accurate
matching,” observes Michael Oehler,
vice president of product management.
In addition to single-finger scanners, the
company has also developed two-finger,
four-finger, and palm scanners, along
with systems for face and iris matching.
On the Road
Biometric sensors have typically been
large and power hungry; the second
generation of biometric devices has been
designed for mobility. Law enforcement
and military personnel have expressed
a need for biometric ID tools that they
can carry into the field, so newer readers
must be small, handheld, able to operate
in challenging weather conditions, and
unaffected by collisions with keys, pens,
and other objects. What’s more, these
battery-operated devices must block
electrostatic discharge, which has crashed
sensor technology in the past.
Orlando-based Zvetco, one of the top
sensor manufacturers, uses AuthenTec’s
technology as a key component of its prod-
uct. Zvetco engineers developed silicon
surfaces to accept fingerprints from dry
skin better; protective coatings to guard
against weather; and superior electrostatic
discharge protection to preclude automatic
shutdowns of hand-held devices.
With the use of smart cards on the rise,
Zvetco has rolled out a new line of smart-
card biometrics readers. Tampa-based
Ceelox, meanwhile, has created software
that can combine information from differ-
ent sensor models. For instance, should
a company’s employees use their own
laptops with different biometric sensors,
the Ceelox software can integrate the
information from these sources and allow
all users to access company data.
The Future of ID
Biometric sensors have evolved past simple
personal identification: AuthenTec has
even developed smart sensors that can be
programmed to respond to each individual
finger so a PC user can correlate each finger
to a different locked application or folder.
Customers in government, industry, and
law enforcement keep pushing to increase
ID speed. For instance, someone entering
the U.S. may eventually have to provide a
fingerprint, photo, and iris scan. “Any way
we can speed that process up to cut down
on queuing time without sacrificing accu-
racy is important to us,” says Oehler.
Security needs continue to grow as
increasing numbers of the key activities
that support national economies move
into digital applications. This is certainly
true in the energy sector, where the ap-
proaching smart grid will rely on ensuring
secure communication among homes,
businesses, and utility companies.
AuthenTec has moved into this market,
and in April the company announced a
collaboration with SmartSynch, one of
the countr y’s largest providers of smart
metering systems, with more than a
hundred major utility customers.
Biometrics: Fingerprints and Beyond
S potlight on innovation
A TECHNOLOGY REVIEW CUSTOM SERIES
Above: The SEEK II combines forensic-quality
fingerprint capture, rapid dual-iris scan capability
and innovative facial-capture technology.
Source: Cross Match Technologies
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