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Software // Enterprise Applications

Biometric Service Unlocks PCs, Apps, And The Web

The service, from Upek and Pay By Touch, could consolidate security authentication around fingerprints.

Biometric device maker Upek Inc. Monday announced a partnership with Pay By Touch, a provider of biometric authorization and payment processing technology, to launch a service that could let one fingerprint authorize access to all of the systems a user needs.

It's a move toward consolidated security that lets a user authenticate once to gain access to a variety of systems. For most people, the reality is being saddled with multiple passwords, smart cards, and tokens to access PCs, applications, and Web services.

Pay By Touch's TrueMe debuts Monday for users of Upek's fingerprint scanners, which come embedded in Lenovo ThinkPad T60 and X60 laptops and are also available as USB-pluggable laptop peripherals. TrueMe is the first Pay By Touch service to be available for Internet users, and is planning to make the TrueMe service available beginning in November to authenticate users of its AppExchange online service, which lets people access Web-based apps through the platform.

The relationship is important in proving to businesses that TrueMe is an "industrial-grade service," says Roger Kay, president of IT consulting firm Endpoint Technologies Associates. The individual technologies required to consolidate authentication aren't new, but this is the first time they've been pulled together into a service.

Pay By Touch is known for offering a network over which it delivers biometric authentication as well as payment processing services, primarily for retailers and financial institutions. A drug store, for example, can use Pay By Touch's service to scan customer fingerprints for access to those customers' payment, loyalty program, and identification information, without the need for the customer to reach into the wallet for three different cards. With its new TrueMe service, it extends biometric authentication to the Web using a biometric reader connected to a PC as the initial authentication point. Pay By Touch says it has 2,400 retail locations signed up for its services and 3 million customers of those locations using its services.

Thanks to the use of a fingerprint, "other people don't know how you're paying, and they can't see anything about your identity," says Pay By Touch executive VP Jon Siegal. "We've developed a system that has end-to-end security so that information that's captured at the computer is secured and encrypted without ever being exposed to the operating system or the network."

The goal is to make user authentication to PCs, applications, and Web services a single process. "Biometrics enables convenient establishment of root trust, which proves you are who you say you are," says Greg Goelz, Upek's VP of marketing. Once this root trust is established by matching the user's fingerprint with the digital copy of their fingerprint, which is encrypted and stored on the PC, the user will have access to all of their systems they're approved to use without the additional step of entering a login or password.

As long as no one spoofs your fingerprint--something that's difficult, but not impossible to do--TrueMe is likely to make a smooth transition from retail to business environments.

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