Biometrics looks good at Comdex

Biometrics looks good at Comdex

The IrisAccess from Iridian Technologies scans a user's iris onto a 512-byte template.

LAS VEGAS'Several federal agencies are testing biometric security devices, but few orders have materialized to date. That could change soon, according to exhibitors at the Comdex trade show last month.

'Since Sept. 11, there is far more talk of preparedness against terrorism and cyberattacks,' said Lloyd Tanaka, manager of Computer Associates International Inc.'s eTrust security product line. 'Biometrics offers a level of security well above password-ID access.'

Fingerprint technology was the most common biometric at the exhibit area Comdex called Biometropolis.

SecuGen Corp. of Milpitas, Calif., at, displayed a keyboard with a built-in fingerprint scanner, a keyboard that reads smart cards and fingerprints, a standalone fingerprint sensor and the SecuGen Mouse fingerprint reader.

According to SecuGen software developer Dan Riley, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is registering 55,000 employee prints. The airport will issue a smart card that includes a fingerprint template to users who work in secure areas. The Justice Department also is evaluating SecuGen's products, he said.

Other fingerprint vendors at Comdex were:

  • Precise Biometrics of Vienna, Va., at, has a physical access card that supports the Defense Department's Common Access Card standard.

  • Fingerprint Cards AB of Sweden, at, uses fingerprint technology in smart cards, cell phones, personal digital assistants and keyboards. It recognizes a fingerprint swiped across a reader.

  • Sagem Morpho Inc. of Tacoma, Wash., at, specializes in rapid matches against fingerprint databases.

    Three years ago, a search of 1 million prints took two minutes. Now, a search of a 100 million-print database can be completed in less than 10 seconds. The FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, Interpol and local law enforcement agencies use this technology, company officials said.

    Some vendors also displayed eye recognition technology. Iridian Technologies Inc. of Moorestown, N.J., at, showed several products, including the Panasonic Authenticam, a dual-purpose camera for videoconferencing and iris recognition, and the IrisAccess 3000, an eye scanner for door entry from LG Electronics of Seoul, Korea.

    IrisAccess enrollment was simple and fast'less than two minutes for an eye scan and data entry. Each iris requires a 512-byte template. 'Like fingerprints, each eye is unique,' said Doug Jones, Iridian's vice president of sales. 'Place the wrong eye in front of the scanner, and access is denied.'

    Jones said Navy and Army facilities are testing the technology, as is Defense's Biometrics Management Office.

    Some biometric products rely on facial recognition. Taiwan-based Symtron Technology Inc., at, demonstrated its Face-On system, which can detect an authorized user passing by the camera. Cognitec AG of Germany, at, said it has a similar system with an accuracy rate of 99.25 percent. Cognitec's development kit can integrate the software with other systems within a few hours, a spokesman said.

    Integration may be a stumbling block to biometric deployment.

    'The technology of biometrics is mature, but how you plug it into existing systems hasn't been given enough attention,' said Walter Hamilton, vice president of business development at Saflink Corp. of Bellevue, Wash., whose Web site is at

    Saflink uses middleware to tie biometric products into other platforms. Because of DOD's rigorous testing and procurement practices, he said he expects another year will pass before biometrics is introduced at the Pentagon and other high-security facilities.
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