To educate legislators and the public on advanced identification methods based on physical characteristics, four manufacturers of the technology announced the formation last week of a trade association.

The International Biometric Industry Association, or IBIA, has two more members and expects to have 60 in a few weeks.

"There are groups trying to kill legislation by alleging biometrics are an evil religious rite," said Richard Norton, the association's executive director. "We have to be out there educating Congress, regulators, and the public."

They want to stress that biometrics-based on fingerprints, voices, eye- retina scans, etc.-can enhance personal privacy and security.

"With the creation of IBIA, we will be able to advocate sound policies that promote industry growth yet protect the individual," said Bill Wilson, the association's chairman and president of Campbell, Calif.-based Recognition Systems Inc., one of the four founders.

A House Banking subcommittee in May held hearings on "Biometrics and the Future of Money" where these approaches were presented as an improvement over personal identification numbers.

Several banks have tested biometrics among employees or small groups of customers, but few have put the technology into general use.

Some manufacturers have begun to focus on internal business, rather than slower-growing consumer opportunities. Identicator Inc., another IBIA founder, is selling its systems for desktop computers on corporate intranets, said Oscar Pieper, president and chief executive officer of the San Bruno, Calif., company.

The other two founders are Visionics Inc. of Jersey City and Iriscan Inc. of Marlton, N.J.

Saflink Corp. of Tampa and Keyware Technologies Inc. of Woburn, Mass., are the noncharter members. The association is soliciting biometrics vendors, system integrators, and banks and other user organizations.

Erik Bowman, an analyst at Cardtech/Securtech, sponsor of a major annual conference in the field, said the association could prove useful in the legislative arena. But he said it would take at least 18 months for results to be apparent.

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