Compaq has released a small hardware module for use with desktop and notebook PCs that will allow users to log onto Windows-based machines using a scan of their fingerprint.
The device will come with software jointly developed by Compaq and Indenticator Technologies, said David Hall, strategic product manager for Compaq's PC products group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Identicator, the main partner on the project, has developed fingerprint identification software that is currently used in prison gateways and high-security office buildings. Over the last 18 months, the two companies have worked together to rebuild the software for a networked PC environment, Halkl said.
The fingerprint-scanning device, which is about half the size of an ordinary mouse, works in conjunction with the software. Users first register their fingerprints by following the steps in a series of dialogue boxes, scanning their fingerprint and entering their existing network log-on passwords, Hall said.
The fingerprint stands in the place of the existing password, but does not replace it entirely. Instead, a certain fingerprint is tied to a specific password on the company's server (or on the computer's hard drive if the fingerprint device is used to log onto a stand-alone PC).
However, the actual fingerprint is not stored anywhere. What is stored is a series of "minutiae points" that are unique to the fingerprint, but which don't allow it to be recognised.
Once the fingerprint is scanned and attributed to a certain password, users can use their fingerprints to log onto the network or onto their PC.
The idea behind the Compaq fingerprint reader is to make networks more secure, Hall said. Passwords can easily be forgotten and/or shared among many users, while a fingerprint is unique to each user. In addition to the increased security factor, Compaq will also push the total cost of ownership (TCO) barrow by saying the device will save money by reducing the time administrators spend reassigning lost passwords.