CEBIT - Fujitsu shows smaller, faster palm-vein sensor

Fujitsu has developed a new model of its palm-vein security sensor that is smaller, faster and cheaper than the previous model, it said Thursday.

Fujitsu and Fujitsu Laboratories have developed a new model of their palm-vein security sensor that is smaller, faster and cheaper than the previous model, they said Thursday.

The new sensor also conforms to an industry-standard API (application programming interface) and will be available globally later this year, Fujitsu said at the Cebit IT show in Hanover, Germany. The company will use the PalmSecure brand name for the product and technology.

The palm-vein system relies on an image sensor similar to that in a digital still camera. It takes a picture of the palm of a user's hand and the image is then matched against a database as a means of verification. The camera works in the near-infrared range so it can detect the veins present under the skin and a proprietary algorithm is used to help confirm identity. The system takes into account identifying features such as the number of veins, their position and the points at which they cross.

This makes for a system that offers a higher level of security than competing technologies including voice print, facial recognition, fingerprint recognition and iris scan, according to Fujitsu.

The technology has been adopted by more than 40 Japanese banks, including one national bank, as a way to authenticate customers at automated cash machines. It is also used in access-control systems at some companies but it has yet to find the same level of adoption overseas. Fujitsu hopes this will change with the launch of the new sensor, said Ichiro Hirose, president and chief executive officer of Fujitsu Europe.

The second-generation sensor is roughly cube-shaped. It measures 3.5 centimeters square and is 2.7 cms high, which is a quarter of the size of the previous sensor. Authentication time has been cut in half from three seconds to 1.5 seconds, said Yoshiaki Kitamura, general manager of Fujitsu's biometric business development group, in an interview at Cebit.

The new sensor is not just the product of advances in technology but has also benefited from feedback Fujitsu received after the system went into commercial use in Japan, he said.

"Most of the comments we had were in three areas," said Kitamura. "People complained it was too slow, there was no SDK and it was too expensive."

In response Fujitsu has switched from a proprietary software base to an open SDK (software developer's kit) with support for the industry-standard Bio API. The SDK will be available in English and Japanese in June and April, respectively.

The cost also has been halved for the new device, Kitamura said, although he didn't reveal the actual price. Other improvements include a cut in the number of scans required to register new users, from three scans to two scans, and a switch from a proprietary encryption system to AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).

The new model can also be directly connected to the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port of a laptop PC or embedded into keyboards. Fujitsu will demonstrate the new sensor in both configurations at Cebit from Thursday.

With these changes Fujitsu hopes the device will attract the same attention overseas that it has in Japan since its commercialization in July 2004. The company is aiming for a 9 percent share of the total biometrics market by 2008 and around YEN 80 billion (US$680 million) in cumulative sales over the next three years, it said.

The device should be available in Australia from June this year.

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Martyn Williams

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