Study: Strong demand for chip-based fingerprint systems

Silicon chip-based fingerprint systems will experience strong growth levels beginning in 2003, said a spokesman for Frost & Sullivan Inc. Tuesday, citing a new study by the market research group.

According to the spokesman, several developments will drive this growth: the phenomenal take-up of cell phones, handheld devices and laptops; the availability of very small, inexpensive chip-based sensors that fit into these devices; and users' demands for greater security, which these sensors can provide, the spokesman said.

The market for silicon chip fingerprint systems is still relatively small: In 2001, it generated a mere US$5.1 million in revenue, according to Frost & Sullivan. But the research group expects the market to grow to $424.6 million by 2006. Unit shipments, it estimates, will grow from 220,000 units in 2001 to 171.3 million units in 2006.

Until now, optical sensors have been traditionally used in fingerprint systems but will face increased competition from chip-based sensors, due largely to their size and price, the spokesman said.

Several chip makers, including Germany's Infineon Technologies AG, Switzerland's STMicroelectronics NV, Japan's Fujitsu Microelectronics and Atmel Corp. of the United States, are well positioned to become major suppliers of chips for fingerprint systems, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Many of these companies are also expected to form partnerships with manufacturers of laptop computers and other portable devices. STMicroelectronics, for instance, is already supplying technology to South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Other groups showing interest in chip-based fingerprint systems include carmakers, suppliers of ATMs (automatic teller machines) and POS (point of sale) terminals, and government and law enforcement agencies, according to Frost & Sullivan.

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