dot.com II (aka High-tech Security)
schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Dec 17 14:43:21 MST 2001
December 17, 2001
A Surge in Demand to Use Biometrics
By BARNABY J. FEDER
Sept. 11 created a long-awaited moment for the biometrics industry,
which centers on equipment that identifies people by using
characteristics thought to be unique to each person, like
fingerprints, voice patterns and spacing of facial features.
"We've always said that some event would have to happen to propel the
technology to the forefront," said Robert McCashin, chief executive
of Identix (news/quote), a leading biometrics company based in Los
Nearly all of the 200 or so companies involved in security and
identity verification, most of them small, were inundated with
inquiries about their products. Venture capitalists began poring over
the sector. Large information technology integrators like
I.B.M. (news/quote), Andersen Consulting and Electronic Data Systems
(news/quote) advertised programs they had in place with biometrics
technology providers and they negotiated new ties. And Mr. McCashin
and other experts saw their calendars fill up with invitations to
testify before Congressional committees, brief regulators and speak
at numerous trade shows.
Stocks in several publicly traded biometrics companies
soared. Visionics (news/quote), which makes facial recognition and
fingerprint systems, quadrupled from its Sept. 10 closing price of
$4.27 before falling back to $16.58 by last Friday. Viisage
Technology (news/quote), a rival facial recognition vendor, soared
from $1.94 on Sept. 10 to $15.97 in early October, closing on Friday
at $11.01. Identix, which was trading at about $4 before the attacks,
was able to sell nearly 7.4 million shares last month at $7, for a
total of almost $52 million, in a private placement. It closed on
Friday at $13.77.
Further cheering the vendors, polls show that Americans would be
willing to give up some privacy if that was the price of better
security. Although many experts see the cost of biometric systems and
the shortcomings in their performance as the major barrier to their
growth, many others cite the privacy issue - the widespread unease
among Americans about whether the information obtained from biometric
devices might be abused by government agencies, employers or
"This could speed up the use of biometrics by three or four years,"
Mr. McCashin said.
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