A mouse that reads your fingerprints

Get ready for the biometric mouse!Although they appeared at Comdex last year and the year before that, fingerprint-reading keypads, retina-scanning lasers and other similar security technologies may finally be ready for prime time.

Get ready for the biometric mouse! Although they appeared at Comdex last year and the year before that, fingerprint-reading keypads, retina-scanning lasers and other similar security technologies may finally be ready for prime time.

By Jim Kerstetter

Biometric security -- fingerprint-reading keypads, retina-scanning lasers and the like -- may finally be ready for the enterprise.

"There's been so much hype, so much attention," said Kevin Tahan, an analyst at EBI Securities, in La Jolla, Calif., who has been following biometrics for a little over four years.

"I was so pleased to find the biggest market research firms making comments that, after Y2K, the biggest IT push is biometric security."

At Comdex, two biometric vendors, SafLink Corp., of Tampa, Fla., and SecuGen Corp., of San Jose, Calif., will announce that ING Direct, a Toronto-based home banking company, is licensing their jointly developed fingerprint-reading mouse.

The SecuDesktop 1.4 mouse houses a glass fingerprint reader on its side. The mouse costs a little less than $100. Volume discounts can bring that down to $70.

Coffee spills and smudges
ING Direct over the next few weeks will roll out 500 of the mice to its customers, said Arkadi Kuhlmann, president and CEO. Kuhlmann said he's curious to see how customers react to it and overcome problems such as smudges and coffee spills.

The mouse, he said, is a step in the right direction. "I like it because of the availability," Kuhlmann said. "It's probably fairly portable if people need it to be."

Other companies, such as Siemens AG, Motorola Inc.'s, Digital Imaging Division and NEC are also working on mouse-based biometric systems. It's not the ideal solution but the most viable one yet, according to the companies.

"Our ultimate goal for all our biometric devices is to get rid of the external device and put it on your PC," said Lee Moser, business line manager at NEC, in Arlington, Va. "But we'll evaluate a variety of different external devices."

Anecdotal evidence is in
To what end?

There's still no concrete evidence that the biometric security market is going to take hold. But anecdotal evidence is growing.

The federal government, for example, recently allocated $15 million for the implementation of biometric security.

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