Intel has invested an undisclosed sum in Digital Persona, a Silicon Valley firm that makes fingerprint-reading systems used to access networks, computers and software programs.
Digital Persona will help Intel incorporate its fingerprint technology into the Common Data Security Architecture, a technology framework being compiled by Intel, IBM and others that is designed to help developers build secure, interoperable applications for making Internet transactions, according to the companies.
Through CDSA, hardware and software developers eventually will be able to embed Digital Persona's fingerprint technology in keyboards, laptop computers and even automobiles as a means of verifying a user's identity, said Fabio Righi, Digital Persona's president and chief executive officer.
Intel's is the first investment by a major IT company in a manufacturer of biometrics technology, according to Righi, and is a sign that the Internet demands a more convenient system by which users can verify who is at the other end of an Internet connection, he said.
Digital Persona also recently secured an undisclosed investment from IDG Ventures, a venture capital firm owned by International Data Group -- the parent company of the IDG News Service. The two investments combined represent about a 20% stake in the company, Righi said.
Intel's motivation for the investment is straightforward, officials said. The chip maker believes fingerprint readers will ease the computing experience, which in turn should increase sales of PCs and boost demand for its microprocessors, Intel spokesman Robert Manetta said.
Intel was also attracted by Digital Persona's support for Universal Serial Bus, which allows peripherals and computers from different companies to be linked together, Manetta said.
Digital Persona's flagship product is the U.are.U fingerprint recognition system. U.are.U includes a sensor about the size of a mouse which reads a user's fingerprint, granting them access to a system or network. The company plans to release the Windows 98 version of U.are.U. in July, officials said.
Intel has invested in about 125 companies to date, including investments totaling about $US300 million in 1997, Manetta said.
Digital Persona, in Redwood City, California, is on the Internet at http://www.digitalpersona.com/.