Biometrics is always an interesting topic. It has sort of a James Bond-ish feel about it. One sticks a finger on a sensor, stares into a lens or speaks a few words and, magically, doors open and computers offer up their secrets. And, the user did very little to authenticate beyond simply offering part of themselves to a machine. Of course, it's not as simple as that and biometric providers have been trying for years to get the formula for effective biometrics working - at a reasonable price. This year's selection may have gotten the recipe right though.
BIO-key International has attacked two major problems with biometrics: cost and accuracy. Fingerprint biometrics are notoriously inaccurate. However, implementations of fingerprints is the least expensive approach. I have a biometric USB drive that also serves as the authentication method for my laptop and it misfires about 40 percent of the time, especially when it is early in the day. And this was in the $200 price range.
BIO-key executives explained that my problem is because the cost and effort is in the hardware, not the software. These folks don't care what hardware you use. They make the software and it is reader-agnostic. That means that they can focus on the most secure and reliable algorithms. And that is exactly what they do.
But there is more to fingerprint - or for that matter - any biometrics. There is security. Maintaining the security of the captured data is critical. This small company - under 50 people - has focused on just one thing: secure fingerprint biometrics. This innovator has combined a unique technology with a creative go-to-market strategy. They have focused not on selling hardware, but on providing the best biometric software, a secure infrastructure for integrating biometrics into the enterprise, and the vision to integrate fingerprint biometrics into the application level.
We selected BIO-key International for its technology and its creative business practices. As my father used to say, "If you don't compete, you can't be beat." These guys are the ones to compete with. For now, anyway, they own their market space.
AT A GLANCE
Flagship product: WEB-key, VST and Bio-API SDK (software development kits)
Vendor: BIO-key International
Cost: Pricing is based on volume and annual/multi-year commitments
Innovation: A combination of focusing on the software for biometrics, as opposed to selling the hardware and building a hardware-agnostic marketing strategy.
Greatest strength: Ability to deliver a unique technology in a very crowded market while maintaining its uniqueness