Electronic commerce and home banking users who want an extra feeling of security may find it in mouse-size biometric devices.
Banks, merchants, and credit card companies can use the finger scanners to verify a person's identity before allowing them to purchase an item on- line or to conduct account transactions.
Several companies have created products that identify people by their physiological characteristics. These companies increasingly are targeting financial institutions.
"This is a market in which most biometric companies want to compete," said Erik Bowman, industry analyst for CardTech/SecurTech in Bethesda, Md.
Many financial institutions are experimenting with biometric systems, though few have installed them. They are exploring using the technology to identify customers banking from home, at teller stations, and at automated teller machines. Also, banks are looking at using finger scanners and other devices to verify employees' access privileges to vaults and other areas.
Biometric Identification Inc. of Tucson, Ariz., has created a mouse-size biometric identification unit called Veriprint 1000. The device, which costs $370, captures an image that can be digitized and encrypted.
Such identification is considered by biometric proponents as an attractive alternative to traditional passwords and identification codes, which can be easily compromised.
One of the least expensive of the finger scanning devices is the $299 Biomouse from American Biometric Co. of Ottawa.
Meanwhile, National Registry of Tampa offers both a mouse-size scanner and one that fits on a computer keyboard.
The smaller unit costs $390, and the keyboard model is $420. Users must also buy software packages at $199 each.