The Security Week That Was: A Recap - Oct. 7-13, 2006

SIW Editor Geoff Kohl gives a weekly surveillance of news shaping your profession

New technologies are great to watch in our industry. You can walk the floor of security tradeshows and see the labware booths, the folks with the whiz-bang piece of electronics or a software package that solves a unique problem. You can watch the press releases and patent activity to see what's shaping up in our industry.

Two announcements this week particularly grabbed me because the companies were doing pretty inspiring things with smart cards. Smart cards, clearly, have become an unbelievable design platform for recognition and access, and there are some niche companies which are doing amazing things in this space. Take NEDAP for example. They're a partner with HID Connect, the partner/technology development arm of HID Global, and like many smart card companies, their story is pretty neat. They've been able to take smart card technology and slap a NEDAP "booster" onto a standard access card so that your access card can be read up about 30 feet away while you're driving along at highway speeds (or faster).

So there's the kind of application you've probably heard about with smart cards in terms of pushing the technology further. But here are two companies you've probably not heard of that are doing some pretty wild things with smart cards.

FaceKey, a company out of San Antonio, earned a patent this week for a wild smart card application. The company has patented the process for putting a camera into smart card. Here's the idea: With a camera on the card, it can take your photo, then use a facial recognition algorithm (presumably on the card itself) to match the photo to a file on the card. According to FaceKey, all this would have to happen before the card itself could be used, making a card useless without its actual card owner. Cameras on cards...pretty wild...but its largely speculative engineering at this point. Though as imagers have been getting better and becoming smaller and smaller (look at consumer camera phones as an example), it's not as hard to envision a camera in a smart card anymore.

The other companies which I want to mention are also playing with neat technology on top of a smart card platform. In fact, they're doing something rather similar to what FaceKey did with cameras, except this time it’s with a fingerprint sensor.

Fidelica Corporation is hardly a brand you'd know, but the company has made small, flexible fingerprint sensors that, among other things, can be placed onto smart cards, which is what partner Abeo Corporation did with one of the Fidelica sensors. The recent model in fingerprint matching has been the concept of the "match-on-card" which involves a fingerprint sensor mounted on the wall (usually as part of a card reader). The user scans her fingerprint; the data is sent to a smart card where it's compared to an existing fingerprint scan, and the card and user is authenticated. The Fidelica/Abeo technology jump further changes this by putting the sensor on the card itself so you don't need a card reader with a fingerprint sensor attached, allowing the system to work in technology environments where there aren't fingerprint sensors at every card reader.

It's interesting to note that this finger-on-the-card idea isn't just labware. Integrator Unisys is actually testing the system out at Dulles International to see if it could work well enough to be used for wireless authentication of air cargo truck drivers.

Did You Think It Was Happening Again?
A plane hits a high-rise in Manhattan...and what did you think at first?

OK, enough about biometrics and hot technology. Let's get back to the rest of the news.

Who among you, upon hearing the breaking news that a plane had crashed into a high-rise in Manhattan, didn't immediately think "terrorist"? Until the sad truth came out that this was a plane owned and operated by Yankee's pitcher Cory Lidle, there was a great deal of speculation, especially since general aviation has consistently been seen as a weak link among air security. No matter that it 10/11 rather than 9/11, the immediate reaction among those of us here at SIW was that we just might have been watching a new terror act unfold. We even got an email from a bizarre man who was convinced that a terrorist had knifed Lidle in the back and had commandeered the plane.

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