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Fingerprint Technology and Security

Posted by Cam Green on Tue, Nov 20, 2012

Up until about 2 months ago, most people probably thought that fingerprint technology was a lost cause. What was once supposed to be the future of security, seems to have faded off as there hadn’t been many new or groundbreaking developments in the past few years. Other FingerPrintTechthan banks and forensics, can you really name any other places that come to mind immediately that use fingerprint technology? I can’t, and neither can the Google search engine. But that could all come to change in the next 2-3 years. Apple is reportedly planning on countering Samsung’s NFC investment with Fingerprint Technology.

This raises the question: What exactly is the next big thing?

Samsung claims to have found a few of the next big things (NFC Technology, Phablets, and the Galaxy SIII have all been labeled according to their commercials at one point.) With Samsung’s push toward NFC technology, Apple has decided to in its own direction and has recently filed for a patent application for fingerprint sensors. Months ago, Apple acquired AuthenTec, a mobile security company.  AuthenTec already holds a number of fingerprint recognition patents, which is most likely the reason for the acquisition.  As you may or may not have read in our NFC technology blog, Apple decided against NFC technology in their iPhone 5, which surprised many people.  But even though the iPhone 5 just came out, the iPhone 6 rumors have already begun. Trying to counter Samsung’s NFC tech, consumers are assuming that fingerprint technology is the main topic being discussed in the Apple headquarters, given the leaks.

Over a month ago, Validity Sensors received $20 million in funding for fingerprint technology. Validity Sensors makes fingerprint sensor tech for identity verification for smart phones, tablets, and ultra books. Validity is a direct competitor to Apple’s AuthenTec, and fully supports Android and Windows OS. This is interesting because now both Validity and AuthenTec have had recent cash injections to improve their product. Android and Windows phones seem to be well aware of what Apple has planned. So, the chances of fingerprint technology coming to your smart phone soon, are very high.

Recent  fingerprint technology does not stop with smart phones, however. One Canadian law firm had their suspicions that employees were sneaking out for three-hour lunch breaks, but had no way of knowing;  MaCague Borlack founding partner of the Canadian law firm, HowardLawFirmFingerprint Borlack, recently added a fingerprint scanner to their office. He said the new scanners were mostly about improved building security, and being able track people coming in and going, as well as streamlining administrative tasks.

There have been privacy concerns about the firm using their fingerprint scanners, but Borlack said that while he is aware that it may make some employees feel a bit uncomfortable, he was careful to ensure that the fingerprint technology would not violate privacy issues.  A law professor at Carleton University who specializes in legal issues surrounding privacy and surveillance said the fingerprinting system is just one example of the way workplaces are using technology to monitor and maximize productivity.

Another small company in upstate New York called UltraScan, developed a new invention recently that reads fingerprints 100 times more accurately than the current methods. The company believes that their invention will fundamentally change how we identify ourselves and pay for purchases.

The TV show MythBusters proved that fingerprint technology is currently easy to bypass. There are many things that can compromise the quality of a fingerprint, such as dirt and grime. “You have ink on your fingers from reading a newspaper. You have nicotine being a cigarette smoker. You have suntan lotion, hand creams,” says John Schneider, co-founder of UltraScan.

UltraScan received an FBI certification on August 8, 2012.  UltraScan’s tool doesn’t take a picture of your fingerprint like most others; it uses ultrasound technology to read the lines, grooves, and ridges of a finger.  UltraScan is the first company to successfully use ultrasound to scan a fingerprint. UltraScan is suddenly extremely busy fielding calls for their product. The military has been one of their biggest buyers. “We don’t have to be involved in manufacturing 300 million units a year. We will financially get our piece of those 300 million units,” says Schneider. “We take a lot of pride in knowing the fact that we did something that nobody else could do around the world and we’ve tried for three decades. No one’s done it.”

It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that the past two months have had more money thrown around in fingerprint technology research and development then the amount in the past few years combined.  As far as when that will be, it has to start with the release date of the iPhone 6 (rumored at the end of 2013). Apple still has to release the iPhone 5s which comes before the 6 so fingerprint technology still has at least a year to go in smart phones.

Other types of fingerprint technology are starting to show up also, such as the Canadian law firm; but when it comes to using fingerprint technology in everyday life, there is something big lurking in the water, and soon it will reveal itself.

Tags: Disaster Recovery, Managed Services, New Technology, Data Security, IT Services

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