IBM and four partners have announced what they call a "major breakthrough" in identity management designed to help business and government agencies protect assets, including IT systems and physical facilities, from unauthorised users.
IBM director of safety and security services, Kent Blossom, called the new smart card-based system a "first-time ever" combination of a variety of physical and virtual security measures.
The new system - using IBM's Tivoli ID management software and products from ActivCard, Bioscrypt, ImageWare Solutions and VeriSign - allows clients to link biometric security, such as fingerprint scans, with applications and networks.
In a demonstration, IBM employees created a smart card within minutes that could be used with a fingerprint scan for a company employee to gain access to a building and to the employee's computer. The card can also be used as a traditional swipe card to gain access to a lunchroom meal plan or a company parking lot.
The smart card could contain several other applications, including digital certificates.
Instead of an employee entering passwords to gain access, the smart card contained the passwords.
Each smart card could be programmed to give individual employees access to facilities or networks they needed, Blossom said.
The new ID management suite allows customers to simplify identity management and authentication processes, according to IBM.
Lost employee passwords could cost up to $US40 per helpdesk call, and password problems could take up 30-50 per cent of a company helpdesk's time, Blossom said.
"There's a big cost for this whole password management issue that we haven't been able to get our arms around, and that's lost productivity," he said.
Information about pricing and availability for the ID management suite wasn't immediately available.