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Hand scan could limit kids' Net access

Israel-based company determines age from bone scan; partner RSA hopes to add device to PCs.

Future PCs may bar children from Internet sites by using an ultrasound device to gauge their age from a hand bone.

The technology, known as Age-Group Recognition (AGR), is the brainchild of Israeli company i-Mature. The company has teamed with security technology firm RSA to develop the technology for the consumer PC market.

"Both organizations recognize the safety concerns associated with using the Internet and look forward to collaborating on a solution that will empower children to protect themselves from inappropriate Web content and online predators," Shmuel Levin, founder and CEO of i-Mature, said in a statement Monday.

To access a site that required authentication, a person would place their fist against the device. Using ultrasound, the i-Mature measures the bone density of the longest bone in a middle finger to determine a person's age.

The company didn't reveal how accurate the age estimate would be, but said the target is 100 percent accuracy in dividing Net users into children 13 and under and adults 18 and older. The company has already created prototypes of the device.

The companies envision the technology as a way to limit access to chat rooms and Web sites. It could be combined with other identity-credentials or biometric technology to help identify surfers.

The technology can be housed in a standalone device or integrated into the keyboard of a PC or laptop, and the target price is about $25, i-Mature said on its Web site. The company plans to complete the product design by June and intends to market the device for use in PCs in public places such as libraries, schools and airports.

The collaboration includes both research and development of the technology as well as joint marketing of products.