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Biometric devices

A biometric device is one that examines some aspect of a person's physical characteristics and provides authenticated access to resources based on a match. We see these devices in the movie theater in movies like James Bond or Mission Impossible and have for a while now, but this device class is becoming more widely available and at reasonable prices. In the next few years devices like fingerprint scanners will be low cost enough to be standard on laptops and hopefully will serve as a reasonable deterrent to laptop theft. So now might be the time for you to investigate this growing class of devices for use in your more sensitive systems.

Indeed you will now find that Compaq, SecureGen, Siemens, and Fujitsu Takaisawa have already integrated fingerprint readers into their products. You can now pick up a personal fingerprint scanner and associated software like the U ARE U Fingerprint Scanner from

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Digital Persona for around $100. Workgroup and enterprise versions of these products that work with directories are also available.

The following is a list of the classes of biometric devices and some representative vendors in the area:

You could also include voice recognition in this category, although for brevity we can't discuss it here.

You will also find software on the market to integrate different biometric authentications from Ankari, Netrix and Keyware; along with single sign on software from both Novell (the Novel Modular Authentication Service) and from Computer Associates.

Obviously this area is of great interest to the government and the military. Much of the work developing these devices has been funded by these sources. The commercialization is a direct adaptation of work done by those agencies. Several government agencies maintain a database listing of products in this area called the Biometrics Catalog.


Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.


This was first published in June 2004

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