Sony adds fingerprint reader to USB storage device

Sony has developed a version of its Micro Vault USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash memory storage unit with an integrated fingerprint reader.

The Micro Vault with Fingerprint Access has 128M bytes of memory and will go on sale in the U.S. and Europe in November, said Shinji Obana, a spokesman for Sony in Tokyo. Sales in Japan are planned but no launch date has been decided, he added.

In Europe the device will cost Euro 130 (US$150). The current model Micro Vault with the same amount of memory but no fingerprint reader costs Euro 100. Prices for the U.S. and Japan have not yet been announced.

A spokesperson from Sony Australia said the company plans to also launch the device in Australia. A launch date and pricing however, has yet to be confirmed.

In addition to providing access to the data stored in the USB unit, the fingerprint reader can also be used to allow access to the computer terminal to which it is connected, according to a company statement.

Sony is providing a series of applications that can be used with machines running the Windows operating system to prevent all but registered users from unlocking screen savers, or to provide user-level access to certain files and directories either in the Micro Vault or on the PC's hard disk drive.

Up to 10 different fingerprints, either those of a number of users or several fingerprints of the same user, can be stored in the device.

The device supports USB 1.1 and USB 2.0 interfaces, with corresponding maximum data read speeds of 1M Bps (bytes per second) and 5.5M Bps.

It can be used with machines running Windows 98, 98SE, ME, 2000 Professional or XP. It can also be used as a USB storage device with machines running Mac OS X 10.0 and higher, but fingerprint functions are not supported, according to Sony. Mac OS X 10.2.5 users must upgrade to Mac OS X 10.2.6 to use the device.