Distributors Get In Touch With Boom In Biometrics


D&H, others add fingerprint readers, retinal scanning devices to security lines


If solution providers think biometrics is just a futuristic niche market with little opportunity, they should think again, say some distributors.

D&H Distributing, Harrisburg, Pa., has expanded its security offerings to include biometrics products such as fingerprint readers and retinal scanning devices. And although Ingram Micro is not yet carrying these types of products, the company's strategic products team is researching the opportunity, said a spokesperson at Ingram Micro.

Distributors hope that biometrics offerings,once viewed as the stuff of sci-fi flicks,will help meet the increased interest in top-line security solutions. Companies and government agencies have become more cautious about protecting their data, networks and facilities, especially in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, said industry analysts.

"Security is a large and growing area for us," said Mike Ortt, program manager at Ashburn, Va.-based Telos Systems Integration, which has been deploying biometrics solutions to commercial enterprises and federal government agencies such as the Department of Defense for more than four years. Biometrics solutions "are more cost-effective in comparison to other types of security products out there," he added.

D&H has sold security and surveillance products for a number of years, but the distributor recently signed agreements with biometrics vendors Iridian Technologies, Moorestown, N.J., and Digital Persona, Redwood City, Calif., in hopes of capturing some of the momentum building around the technology, said Michael Schwab, vice president of purchasing at D&H.

"For the first time, there are products coming to market that are user-friendly," said Schwab. Current devices are plug-and-play and suited to meet the needs of SMBs as well as large enterprises. Past issues, such as high price points, technology expertise and integration uncertainty, have since been resolved in today's second-generation products, he said. "A lot of sales were passed up [in the past because biometrics technology was not easy to implement," said Schwab.

D&H executives said they're seeing increased interest in biometrics products and are providing the security technologies and solutions their customers are asking for.

The worldwide biometrics technology market reached $118.8 million in 2000 and will continue to increase over the next five years at a compound annual growth rate of 50 percent, according to a recent report from research firm IDC.

"The ability to ensure that only authorized individuals can enter a building, visit restricted departments and utilize networked resources will be critical to reducing security threats," the report stated. The key to deploying strong security solutions is to combine biometrics products with other forms of authentication, such as security software, passwords, smart cards and tokens, said Telos' Ortt.

Meanwhile, to help solution providers gain an understanding of Digital Persona's products, D&H has archived a recent vendor presentation in the V-Train area of its Web site. The distributor hopes to add more presentations to the site in the future.

Also, vendors will start to bundle biometrics products with software and hardware to create complete security solutions, said Schwab. The distributor hopes to add more vendors' offerings as these technologies catch fire with solution providers and end users. "D&H is always looking for products that meet the needs of its customers," said Schwab.