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Log-ins now done by fingerprint

Taking a design cue from '60s spy movies, Compaq unveils a security system that will allow users to log in by fingerprint.

Taking a design cue from '60s spy movies, Compaq Computer today outlined a new security system that will allow users to log in by fingerprint.

Due in August, the company's fingerprint recognition system will be a device approximately half the size of a PC mouse and calibrated to recognize a 3D image of an individual's fingerprint, according to Michael Takemura, director for Compaq product marketing for desktops in North America.

To log in, users will press their chosen finger against the plane of the device. A microcamera will then cross-check the image against stored data about the digit. If a match occurs, the user will be logged onto the network.

The underlying software for the system comes from Identicator and will be the first in a series of "biometric" products the company hopes to bring to the market.

Users afraid that someone might try to lift a fingerprint off an old can of Fresca need not worry. Both the device and fingerprint recognition software work with 3D images of a fingerprint. "You would have to convert a 2D image to a 3D image," Takemura said. People with unusually sweaty hands can also use the device without concern because it is not sensitive to heat.

While other companies have released fingerprint ID systems, Compaq's is the first to be priced attractively, asserted Takemura. The device and necessary software will cost just under $100 and be marketed with Compaq's Deskpro and Armada lines.