Make Your Computer Biometric

Last Updated Mar 1, 2007 3:38 PM EST

UPEK readerWhile it's not out quite yet for the public, I thought I'd tell you about a very cool USB-powered tool that uses fingerprint-scanning technology in a number of really cool ways. Basically, it allows you to give any computer the biometric security capabilities that come built-in with many new laptops. That's because the company that built the hardware for them—UPEK—also designed the USB tool, called the Eikon Fingerprint Reader.

After I saw that it had won a design award at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, I asked the folks at UPEK to ship me one (plus the associated software) to test out. Here's how it works: besides for just protecting your PC with a required finger swipe at startup, the device lets you use your finger to encrypt specific files. It also lets you scan in multiple fingers as a way to launch different applications. (I set it up so I could swipe my pinky to check my inbox.) If you've got multiple users on your PC, you can also set up the device to recognize the fingerprints of multiple people and have it switch between users based on their prints. The guys over at UPEK say the device should be ready for the consumer market later this year and should cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50.