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An interesting twist in the maze of identification technology

Once perfected, you may want to be a bit careful about what you pick up. The nefariously minded can doubtless dream up a slew of innocuous methods to scan your prints and use them later for their own evil purposes. Just as facial recognition software will push the eyeglass and false mustache fashion, look to print scanners to herald the return of elbow length gloves.

Sensor-on-a-chip passes fingerprint test

from the Morgan Chase Tech Industry Daily
The EntréPad fingerprint sensor fits onto a single chip and is less than a centimeter square–small enough for use in cell phones and PDAs, ZDNet News reported yesterday. The device has low power requirements and uses under ten milliwatts when imaging. A finger to be identified is applied to the top surface of the chip, which has an especially hardened coating. Identification takes place in under a second.

The sensor works by detecting the pattern of living cells beneath the dead epidermis. It creates a low-power field of radio waves that are distorted by the conductive salty fluids in the skin cells. A matrix of sensors on the chip’s surface measures and charts this distortion, and the rest of the chip recreates the fingerprint image for analysis. The pattern of the cells beneath the epidermis is identical to that on the surface itself.

Comment: Because the sensor doesn’t react to the surface of the finger, it can’t be distracted by changes to that surface – calluses, dirt or ageing aren’t registered. The company said that as part of its tests, employees attempted to remove their fingerprints using abrasion, but this didn’t affect the accuracy of the measurements. Ouch. Startups, it seems, draw a very committed type of employee.

Biometrics–the science of identifying people through personal attributes–is increasingly being seen as an important part of security. Fingerprints and iris recognition are among the most accurate and reliable methods being considered. Voice recognition is also attractive — because it doesn’t require physical presence, it is more attractive for remote authentication — though, as a result, there are a lot more technical hurdles to overcome.

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