Biometric USB drive scans fingerprints

The ClipDrive Bio, with built-in fingerprint scanner, is designed to offer a more secure version of a ubiquitous gadget

Memory Experts is to launch a 2GB biometric USB flash drive in the UK next month, featuring a fingerprint scanner that can be used to control both access to documents stored inside the device and to a corporate network, the company said this week.

USB drives, which are pieces of flash memory that connect directly to a PC's USB port, have become a popular replacement for floppy disks because they are faster, can hold more data and are more reliable. However, because the devices are so portable and can carry large amounts of data, they can pose a security risk.

The ClipDrive Bio, which can store between 64MB and 2GB of data, is designed to solve the security issue with a "secure partition", which the user creates by pressing a finger on the built-in fingerprint scanner. The scanner can be used instead of a password to authenticate users' access to corporate networks and applications.

Lawrence Reusing, Memory Experts' vice president of corporate development, research and design, said the device is ideal for mobile users who want a simple and secure device for storing and transporting valuable data. "The device is configured into two partitions; one public, the other secure. The secure partition cannot be seen, let alone compromised, without an authorised fingerprint to allow access," he said in a statement.

James Governor, principal analyst at RedMonk, told ZDNet that the device is basically a "floppy disc drive revisited", but he said that unlike a floppy drive, they are robust and very reliable. "A friend recently put one in the washing machine and it worked perfectly when dry," he said. "These things are pervasive and potentially hold important corporate data on them. If [they] can keep the costs down, this looks like a useful little gizmo."

The ClipDrive Bio is compatible with USB 1.1 and 2.0 and will be available in the UK from March. The 2GB model is expected to cost about £120.