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Where did the biometric device come from?

What company invented the biometric device, particularly the fingerprint reader and scanner?

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The first biometrics devices, if you could call them that, date back to ancient China, Babylonia and Assyria, when clay tablets with fingerprints were used to associate people with events or transactions.

But fingerprint scanning, as we know it today, didn't come of its own until the late 1960s, with the development of live scan technology that received fingerprints without ink. It's not clear who invented this "dry" fingerprinting technique, but it was eagerly adopted by the FBI, as well as an unnamed Wall Street security corporation in 1968.

Since then, biometric technology permutated beyond fingerprint readers and into iris scanners and voice recognition tools. Dozens of companies and inventors were involved in these efforts.

Biometric devices, which began as large devices that provided physical access to military installations, have also gone more lightweight. In the past five years, companies such as Authentify, Aladdin, IBM and DigitalPersona have developed pocket-sized biometric tokens, the same size as one-time password tokens that can be plugged into a USB port.

But the field is still evolving, with many traditional authentication vendors jumping on the biometrics bandwagon. Devices are smaller, more portable and easier to use. They have become a standard feature on some new laptops.

For more information:

  • Learn how the combination of biometrics and electrophysiological signals can be used for authentication.
  • Security expert Joel Dubin discusses the risks associated with biometric data, and explains how can they be avoided.
  • This was first published in October 2007