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Fingerprint Scanning in Biometric Smart Card Technology

When the fingerprint is scanned, a template is created, providing a measurement for each ridge and groove in the finger. The template information is then translated through a reader that compares the information from the finger that is scanned when a person tries to access an account at an ATM, for instance.

Fingerprints are taken which are converted to electronic templates for use by the card. An enrollment center then issues a smart card by transferring those fingerprint credentials and a photo to the card. It is not designed to gather personal information. The best part is that this type of system actually protects an individual’s identity for if someone were to steal the template, they couldn't do anything with it; it's useless outside that one scenario.

Using the fingerprint is cheaper because integrating the fingerprint into the reading device is easier than with any other form of biometrics. You only need a template to read an individual’s fingerprint. And to get a template, you only need a person’s fingertip.

The fingertip generates a unique numerical calculation that can be matched to a reader device, smart card or back-end system. Biometric fingerprint sensors help reduce electronic theft and fraud by locking out intruders. The sensors provide advanced security and replace passwords and PINs - which can be lost, forgotten, or stolen.

A mag-stripe, on average, can hold about 140 bytes. The average fingerprint template consumes around 500 bytes. 

A fingerprint reader, with just the basic capabilities, costs between $10 and $50. But comparing the prices of differing biometrics techniques is difficult because many factors play into the cost.  The actual technology on the machine is a whole host of applications. There’s a whole system behind this with an infrastructure to support it.

The move to Microsoft Windows-based ATMs will make integrating such technology into ATMs easier and cheaper.

Fingerprint technology is the oldest and most mature method of biometrics. Although iris scanning is the most accurate, fingerprint identification comes in at a close second and is much more reliable than facial scans — which can be negatively impacted by the presence of facial hair or a user’s proximity to an ATM.

There are basically three different types of fingerprint biometrics: minutia-based, which measures the space and difference between the ridges and swirls on the finger; pattern-based, which is like a photograph of the fingerprint’s pattern; and full-image-based, which is similar to a picture of the entire fingerprint.

Fingerprinting is highly distinctive and difficult to circumvent. The challenge to integrate this information among all law enforcement agencies is great. Comparing the print from an entire finger is considered even more accurate

Fingerprinting was used in 14th century China, but its refinement by Scotland Yard in the late 1800s soon led to its becoming the identification method of choice of police around the world. One drawback: People generally associate fingerprinting with criminal activity.

Fingerprinting Plays Key Role in Biometrics Boom

By Paul Korzeniowski - 01/05

Fingerprinting is an authentication technique that has helped law enforcement officials identify potential criminals for decades, but recently it has started to gain wider usage. The technique is emerging as the most popular form of biometrics, and much of the budding interest is coming from government agencies looking to enhance physical security, such as access to buildings. Corporations are also making a move toward using fingerprinting technology to provide more reliable identification of employees, business partners and customers.

This time-tested technique has gained popularity because it is the most mature biometric system. As use has expanded beyond law enforcement, pricing has dropped. "A fingerprint scanner costs only $50 to $100," according to David Ostlund, a consultant with International Biometric Group.

In the IT space, low-priced fingerprinting systems represent a potential solution to a number of problems. Companies need to supplement password systems, which can be easily compromised, and fingerprinting represents a stronger security check.

Fingerprinting also has the potential to lower IT costs. Currently, companies pay help desk personnel a lot of money to handle support calls, and many problems arise when users have problems with or forget their passwords.

Financial services represents an area where new security options are often readily adopted. These firms need to be certain that employees and customers are who they claim to be when they undertake various transactions. Firms such as Fidelity Investments have started to use fingerprinting devices for user identification.

Health care providers are also starting to rely on fingerprinting when they check in new patients. By forcing patients to enter their fingerprints into biometrics scanners before they receive services, health care companies can cut down on the number of individuals who fraudulently use other individuals' insurance cards. Fingerprinting can also come in handy before hospitalized patients undergo treatment. A quick check of patients' fingerprints will make it clear to nurses and doctors that patients are properly identified as they are about to undergo various surgical procedures.

Recently, there has been a big push by cellular carriers to use fingerprinting to enhance handset security. Korea Telecom and Japan NTT incorporated a fingerprint sensor into their wireless handsets, so users do not have to worry about their phones being hijacked.

While fingerprint use has expanded, there are still a few hurdles that need to be cleared before it becomes a common security check. First, there's the human challenge: Many users are concerned about privacy issues. To some, biometric evaluations still seem too intrusive, too Big Brother-like, for them to accept. In addition, some users understand that no security system is 100 percent effective, including fingerprinting systems, and they become concerned about false positives.

Fingerprinting authentication success rates are quite high -- in the upper 90 percent range -- but that can also mean that sometimes legitimate users may not be allowed access to needed resources. Because of these concerns, fingerprinting deployment can require involvement from human resources specialists, lawyers and top management as well as the IT department.

Deploying a fingerprinting system is not easy. To date, fingerprint identification devices have been designed in autonomous fashion, so it is difficult -- some say impossible -- to connect devices from different manufacturers.  Support for fingerprinting also as to be woven into operating systems, applications, and other security systems, such as password systems.

The ongoing maintenance of biometric devices can often be expensive because few IT technicians are familiar with them. Since it's more complicated than traditional security checks, fingerprinting adds overhead to servers and networks. Transferring a user's biometrics template over a network and storing it is much more costly than transmitting and storing that same user's password data.

Microsoft has stated that its upcoming Longhorn OS will include an integrated biometrics suite that should simplify integration and maintenance, and many third parties have said they plan to back the initiative.

Pay By Touch Automatic Payments

Pay By Touch, which is free to consumers, is a new payment service that allows shoppers to pay for purchases or cash checks using a finger scan linked to their financial accounts and loyalty programs

Since July 2004, Piggly Wiggly customers in four South Carolina grocery stores have been using Pay By Touch to purchase groceries using a finger scan linked to their financial accounts. Customer research revealed that 50 percent of Piggly Wiggly's Pay By Touch users are driven by the convenience of not having to present cards, checks, or their PFC/Greenbax rewards cards at the point of sale.

Pay By Touch gives Piggly Wiggly shoppers Express Checking (ACH), a new type of transaction which is a direct electronic withdrawal from shoppers' bank accounts.

When a user first enrolls, they are prompted to create a seven digit number that will aid the system in locating their information quickly. The number is not secret, but only acts as a clarifying preface to the finger scan. The company suggests the user's 7-digit phone number making it easy to remember, after all, the fingerprint is what grants access, not the 7-digit number.

After inputting the 7-digit number, the Pay By Touch finger reader then converts a set of data points from the individual’s finger scan into a numeric representation. This number is created at enrollment – when the user visits a Pay By Touch point of sale reader for the first time. When the user returns to a reader in the future, the number is recreated by the reader and compared to the number originally enrolled in the system. If it matches, the user may proceed but if it does not match, the transaction is denied.

The Pay By Touch finger scanning technology does not store actual fingerprints; instead, it creates a set of 40 data points that cannot be reverse engineered into a fingerprint. The data points are then encrypted and converted into a mathematical equation that allows for a secure identity match at retail point of sale.

It's an identifier based on your finger, but it is not a print that can be matched up to something in some government database.

Unlike cash, tickets and swipe cards which can be lost or stolen, your fingers are always with you -- and no one can use them to gain fraudulent access to your account.

Finger Licking Good Technology

Fingerprint technology is now being harnessed at K-12 schools around the nation for school lunches. Students simply place a forefinger on a small reader by the register. Public schools have adopted this technology to speed operation; simplify payment; limit lunch fraud and bullying; improve National School Lunch Program (NSLP) participation; and to improve reimbursement for programs such as Title I, E-rate, and No Child Left Behind, which use NSLP food service data to gauge poverty. 

Teachers apparently love that the new system gets lunch money out of their classrooms.  One teacher says she’s gained half-an-hour of teaching time a day, since she no longer has to concern herself with lunch money during class.

In order to identify students and take daily attendance, a biometric fingerprint reader scans the fingerprint as the students enter the classroom to start their day. A series of identification points within the fingerprint are converted into a numerical code that accesses the student's information. The scanning process takes less than a second to complete and a student can be enrolled into the system in less than 10 seconds. 

Lock Away Those Firearms

The BioVault from Sequiam Biometrics Inc. is a storage vault that can be used for the safe storage of guns.  It can only be accessed through biometrics, specifically fingerprints. 

Let Your Fingers Allow the Talking

03/05 - NTT has also developed a capacitor-type one-chip fingerprint sensor that uses about one tenth the power of comparable sensors available commercially, said Hiroki Morimura, senior research engineer at NTT Microsystem Integration Laboratories.

Capacitor-type sensors "read" the ridges and troughs of a fingerprint through variations in the electrical charges produced where the finger touches the sensor. Such sensors usually use three chips, a sensor chip, a processor and a memory chip, said Morimura.

NTT's sensor only uses one NTT-developed custom chip and this has cut power consumption to about 20 milliwatts, about a tenth of that needed for sensors with multiple chips. The sensor can run for a year on a standard 3-volt lithium ion "button" battery, he said.

Possible uses include securing access to PDAs and mobile phones, and even controlling access to a personal mail box outside the home.

By only using one chip, the cost of the sensor can be lowered to about $50, half that of capacitor-type sensors on sale now, Morimura said. The sensor is 11 millimeters by 15mm by 1.4mm and has a resolution of 128 pixels by 128 pixels, according to NTT.

NTT Electronics, which is part of the NTT group of companies, will start making samples of the sensor chip in April, and it should be available for commercial use by the middle of the year, Morimura said.

11/06 - (Iowa) Grocery store customers who have set up an account can pay for their purchases by the touch of a finger. Pay By Touch, a biometrics payment service, manages the service for Cub Foods and other retailers.


AuthenTec has more than 3 million fingerprint sensors already in use in the PC, wireless, and access control markets. AuthenTec's biometric products have made fingerprint biometrics viable for mass-market adoption. The company's network of partners, solution providers and customers include; Analog Devices, APC, Computer Associates, IBM, LGE, Microsoft, Samsung, and Texas Instruments. 

FaceKey Corporation

FaceKey Corp., headquartered in San Antonio, TX, is a biometrics technology provider of security measures for their customers which utilize biometric technologies that identify and allow access to authorized personnel.

FaceKey's technology combines face and fingerprint recognition security geared to reducing fraud and providing better accountability. By combining identification technologies, FaceKey's biometric products are used for a wide variety of access applications ranging from securing corporations' confidential areas and PC access to effectively monitoring time and attendance greatly reducing employee fraud.

Fingerprint Cards

Fingerprint Cards has two new biometric subsystems that allow designers to easily integrate biometrics-enabled authentication into other products.

identiMetrics, Inc.

identiMetrics, Inc., headquartered in Malvern, PA, deals in the development, integration and marketing of biometric fingerprint identification solutions, security and tracking biometric hardware and software products for the education market.

The products are biometric fingerprint identification replacements for swipe card readers, bar code readers and PIN pads that allow for quick and positive identification in the classroom, cafeteria, library, nurse's office and for secure entrance to schools.


UPEK's complete biometric solutions offer the security of fingerprint authentication with convenience at the tip of a finger to integrate into a wide range of applications, such as notebook PCs, mobile devices, logical access, physical access, and government ID programs. UPEK's TouchChip™ advanced biometric technology provides accurate, high quality images critical for creating secure customer systems. Fingerprint reader sales, fingerprint module development kits for USB fingerprint readers.


Verifi ID Manager is priced at $34.95 for the software package only, and at $99 for a single retail package that includes a Verifi P3400 fingerprint reader. Channel pricing is also available. Verifi ID Manager and the CS versions are available now, and can be purchased directly from Zvetco Biometrics' Web site or through its channel and retail partners.