Microsoft embraces biometrics
- By Michelle Speir
- Jun 05, 2000
The biometrics industry received a shot in the arm in early May when Microsoft
Corp. announced plans to integrate biometric authentication technology in
future versions of its Windows operating system. To help make this happen,
Microsoft acquired I/O Software Inc.'s Biometric API (BAPI) technology and
SecureSuite core authentication technology. The software will enable users
to log on and conduct secure e-commerce transactions using a combination
of fingerprint, iris pattern or voice recognition instead of a password.
Microsoft's announcement will almost certainly have significant ramifications
for the biometrics industry through promoting widespread adoption of biometrics
and making biometric devices more easily available to users. "Over the next
few years, we expect to see fingerprint scanners or another form of biometric
authentication on the majority of PCs," says William Saito, president and
CEO of I/O Software.
Interestingly, Microsoft chose not to use the recently released, industry-consensus
biometric application program interface (BioAPI) standard as the basis for
its integration of biometrics into Windows.
The BioAPI specification is an "open systems" specification that is
intended for use across a spectrum of computing environments — including
Windows, UNIX and Linux — to ensure cross-platform support. The BioAPI is
the result of several years of collaboration between the biometrics industry,
government and major IT vendors, and the 51 members comprising the BioAPI
Consortium include companies such as Intel Corp., Compaq Computer Corp.,
Unisys Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.
A Microsoft spokesperson said the company does not want to adapt the
BioAPI at this time because it is focused only on application development,
whereas Microsoft is working on developing an entire platform that would
involve both software and hardware.
Such a platform would necessarily involve more elements than the BioAPI
covers, the Microsoft spokesperson said.
However, there is plenty of support for the BioAPI in the federal government.
In fact, the Army Director for Biometrics is requiring that all biometrics
products purchased by the Army be BioAPI compliant. GSA's Smart Card program
also requires BioAPI compliance for all biometrics products.