There may be a smaller and faster fingerprint sensor coming to a laptop or PDA near you. Authentec, a Florida-based company, has rolled out a tiny EntrePad 1610 fingerprint sensor. This 12 by 5 millimeter sensor is compatible with several Trusted Computing platforms and also works with Windows and Linux operating systems.
Authentec claims the sensor is the "world's smallest fingerprint sensor" and two-thirds smaller than the competition. Users can log into their computers by swiping their fingertip past a small window. In addition, users can set a screensaver fingerprint and safely walk away from the machine.
Like other sensors, the fingerprint information is stored as a hash or a bunch of numbers depicting various parts of the fingertip. The EntrePad 1610 will store the hashes inside of the sensor's flash memory, instead of the computer's hard-drive. Authentec has not disclosed the number of fingerprints the sensor can store.
Entrepad is compatible with version 1.2 of the Trusted Computing Group's Trust Platform Module (TPM) specification and Microsoft's Vista Secure Startup. With a TPM, future computers may have an integrated microcontroller that securely stores cryptographic keys, passwords and digital certificates. The goal of a TPM is to primarily prevent authorized access and to prevent malicious code from executing.
However privacy proponents like Seth Schoen from the Electronic Frontier Foundation believe TPM may be the wrong approach. "Treating computer owners as adversaries is not progress in computer security," Schoen said in an EFF sponsored white paper entitled "Trusted Computing: Promise and Risk".
The EntrePad 1610 sensor is a currently available to manufacturers and we should see it appear in laptops and PDAs within a few months. Authentec estimates the bill of materials to be less than $5.