Biometrics meet wireless internet

Identix - a Motorola-funded maker of fingerprint identification devices - last week launched a division that will offer biometric authentication services to wireless and Internet service providers.

The technology will allow customers of wireless services and products to authenticate their identities when conducting electronic transactions, according to Identix.

Services such as these will become increasingly crucial as wireless use and applications grow, said Jeff Keffler, an analyst at Lehman Brothers Holdings in New York. Lehman estimates that 140 million handsets will be sold next year.

Identix's new division, Itrust, will build both the hardware and software for the fingerprint scanning devices that will be embedded in such handheld devices. Itrust will also bundle a range of validation, transaction management and content protection services based on the devices, said CEO Jim Scullion.

Transaction management services can handle tasks such as maintaining audit trails to prove that a transaction did indeed take place. Content protection services deal with the ability of users to control access to documents, limiting the time customers can have the documents on their systems and controlling whether they can download or copy them.

Identix will partner with leading certificate authority vendors to offer validation services for things such as digital signatures, Scullion said. The company will also license its technologies to other wireless providers for use on their handsets and networks.

Identix's move is representative of the growing vendor interest in the biometric authentication market, Keffler said. Microsoft, for instance, recently announced plans to develop such software technology in partnership with I/O Software Inc., while big-name vendors such as Seimens AG and Sony are rushing to market with fingerprint scanners that can be embedded into handhelds, he said.

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