Getting Beneath the Surface
Dale Setlak spent April 17 collecting sweaty fingerprints at tennis clubs. The following winter, he hit the slopes in New England to collect frigid ones. All to confirm that his fingerprinting-sensor technology works despite heat, cold, dirt, sweat, or scars. How? TruePrint uses radio waves to get an image from below the surface of the skin. That makes fingerprinting, which is more secure than passwords or keys, even more reliable.
From Dale’s original entry:
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization does) and the specific challenge you faced.
Dale Setlak, CTO of AuthenTec, Inc, has spent countless of hours in prisons and in emergency rooms. Trained in both electrical and computer engineering, this former rock and roll musician turned semiconductor and biometric technology developer used his time in these hectic places to help introduce innovation into the biometrics marketplace. In 1995 it was becoming apparent that the rapidly evolving information and communication systems infrastructure would be unable to achieve its full potential until methods of reliably verifying the identity of the individuals using that infrastructure could be developed. At that point in time, biometrics was a new industry–and very few people were talking about the merits of personal and network security. Dale began exploring various methods of authentication and realized that fingerprinting was the most common and well-received method for identification. He also realized that the existing technologies (DC capacitive and Optical) were somewhat flawed in their ability to consistently identify an individual. DC Capacitive and Optical technologies could not handle real world situations and only worked for half of the people using them. In order for fingerprint biometrics security to work in the real-world, whether it’s a doctor accessing a patient record at a computer terminal, a business traveler looking to log-on to his or herlaptop, or an access-control door security application, the technology would need to be improved to the point where it could work for ALL users.
What was your moment of truth?
To gauge how well fingerprint technology at the time performed in varying environments, Dale tested inmates and emergency room patients. He concluded that although prison life was harsh, the health of the majority of inmates was very good, and that the surfaces of their fingers were healthy, and not “contaminated.” However, patient fingerprints in emergency rooms were not nearly as easy to read using conventional technologies and were often cut, bloody or worn. Attemping to identify people by their fingerprints under such conditions proved to be a difficult task. Dale realized that the answer to getting a “true” print resided under the dead, outer layer of skin, at the live layer–and that in order to identify someone using optical or capacitive fingerprint imaging technology, the skin needed to be free of oil, debris, cuts, dirt, and scarring. This led Dale to the conceptualization, development and implementation of TruePrint technology.
What were the results?
Used to replace PINs, passwords, physical access cards and keys, AuthenTec’s TruePrint(R)-based sensors provide the most convenient and reliable fingerprint security solutions available today for the PC, wireless, access control and automotive markets. AuthenTec’s patented TruePrint technology allows fingerprints to be read below the surface of the skin to the live layer–or true fingerprint. Within the past year, AuthenTec’s fingerprint sensors have been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including: Frost & Sullivan’s 2003 Market Leadership Award; the 2003 Innovative Housing Technology Award; the 2003 BiometriTech Best of Show Product Award; the 2003 Florida Governor’s New Product Award; the Wireless Systems Design 2002 Reader’s Choice Award; and the SC Magazine Best of 2002 Award. TruePrint technology is the driver behind AuthenTec’s ability to provide the broadest range of form factors and the lowest cost fingerprint sensors available on the market today. With more than 1.5 million sensors deployed worldwide, AuthenTec is the leading semiconductor provider of fingerprint sensors. AuthenTec’s FingerLoc(R) and EntrÌÎå©Pad(TM) product families utilize the Company’s patented TruePrint technology. AuthenTec is an AO100 Top Private Global Company. The Company’s network of partners, solution providers and customers include Texas Instruments, Microsoft, IBM, Targus, Delphi, Fellowes, Synaptics, Samsung, Harris Corporation, Bioscrypt and SCM Microsystems.
What’s your parting tip?
Nurture your ideas by building an understanding through visuals–presentations and illustrations. We made printed stickers of the envisioned fingerprint sensors which we stuck onto laptop computers and cell phones to illustrate the concept. We finally found funding for a feasibility demonstration project and began the task of building a concept demonstration device.