Australian hardware developer Legend Memory is predicting a boom in interest in biometric security, revealing plans to release USB thumb drives equipped with fingerprint readers in 2006.
USB thumb drives (or memory keys), widely touted as the new substitute for floppy disks, have quickly become ubiquitous in corporate IT environments as a means of transporting documents between sites and machines.
However, their portability and lack of security makes them a potential source of vulnerability, a point underlined by a recent Pointsec survey which found that only 14 per cent of professionals who store files on USB drives bother to encrypt that data.
Next year, Adelaide-based Legend would release USB thumb drives which included biometric fingerprint readers, director of worldwide sale,s Rob Kester, said.
Fingerprint security would ensure that only the drive's owner could access data stored on it. While some earlier biometric readers built into PC equipment had proved unreliable, the technology was now both robust and able to be manufactured effectively in volume.
As well as posing a potential security risk, margins on generic USB thumb drives are fairly thin for resellers.
Kester acknowledged the problem.
He said a key element in Legend's planning was to ensure that products were designed with an sustainable price point in mind.
"You always have to go into resellers with a specific price target," he said.
Legend's expansion from its traditional memory module market into complementary products such as set-top boxes and secure flash memory for digital cameras has seen it gain a foothold in major retail chains, including Harvey Norman, Dick Smith Electronics, Kmart and Myer.
It is also a licensee of the Secure Digital (SD) standard for flash memory.
The biometric thumb drives are set for release in the first half of the year. Long regarded as little more than a curiosity, biometric technologies (which include iris scanning and voice recognition) are slowly gaining traction in the enterprise marketplace.
A survey by Forrester Research earlier this year found that 13 per cent of enterprises intended to introduce some form of biometric authentication for access to corporate networks.