Biometrics Gives VARs A Competitive Edge

The technology—most popular in the health-care and financial industry verticals—incorporates unique biological properties such as fingerprints and retinal scans to authenticate user identities.

"Customers are [buying] this like you wouldn't believe," said Art Sands, COO of AC Technology, a solution provider in Dulles, Va. "Soon, everyone will share information this way," he said.

While the biometrics niche is still in its infancy, Sands said it has become AC Technology's biggest revenue generator in an authentication-crazed marketplace. Vendors, recognizing escalating interest among the solution provider community, are cashing in on the game too.

A few months ago, Irvine, Calif.-based biometrics vendor HID unveiled a formal channel program to capitalize on this interest. HID's bioClass technology combines fingerprint scanning with other methods of authentication—in most cases, smart cards.

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Zvetco, a vendor in Orlando, Fla., has tapped partners to sell its fingerprint scanner and associated software called the Verifi P4000 One-Touch System.

Eliot Lanes, president of Viable Solutions, Orlando, said he pairs the Verifi solution with NetWare identity-management software from Novell. While margins on the product are slim right now, Lanes said he leverages the technology as a sales tool to beat out competing solution providers for Novell contracts that don't incorporate biometrics.

"If I can get a customer by leveraging their desire to get into biometrics now, I'll get their business down the road," Lanes said. "Event-ually, there will be a significant revenue stream here."

Sig-Tec, a solution provider in Minneapolis touts the SecurePrint System from Silex Technology America, Salt Lake City. The bundled system includes the FUS-200N fingerprint reader and a four-port USB 2.0 device server.

According to Sig-Tec CTO Robert Hoghaug, when users want to print, they send a document to the printer, where it waits in a queue. The device server controls the queue and will only print the document after users submit fingerprints to confirm their identity.

"This system ensures that if users are printing sensitive information, they are the only ones who have access to the printouts," said Hoghaug, adding that the product is so popular among financial services companies that sales in this segment now top his financial sheets.

Perhaps the most popular biometric technology at this point is the BioTouch fingerprint reader and BioLogon authentication software from Identix, Minnetonka, Minn. Identix owns nearly 70 percent market share in the biometrics marketplace, according to research firm Gartner.

Some solution providers, such as Andover, Mass.-based Sentillion, are building their own solutions around Identix. Sentillion has built a single sign-on program called Vergence Authenticator to work in tandem with the BioTouch and BioLogon products. Sentillion Vice President Jane Hiscock said the solution is by far her firm's biggest seller.

When a user submits to a fingerprint scan on a BioTouch device, the device interfaces with Vergence and logs the user into every program needed. When the user is finished, the program automatically logs out the user. Hiscock said the application is a good fit for health-care providers, where doctors constantly need access to sensitive patient files.

"These [doctors] understand that biometrics is a useful technology for their work environment," she said. "When it becomes a part of their daily routine, we know we've done our job."