American Biometric Co. has introduced a smart card reader that it says can make a public key infrastructure for digital authentication accessible and affordable to many corporate enterprises.

The Ottawa company is showing the device, CardDrive, at the Cardtech/Securtech conference in Chicago this week. It is the largest annual exposition in the smart card industry, and American Biometric's interests straddle the conference's dual emphases on card technology and biometric identification.

CardDrive is an extension of the BioMouse line that the company says can handle a range of biometric and chip card security options.

"Many organizations are beginning to adopt smart card technology for network access control and the storage of user credentials, most often in conjunction with a PKI," or public key data encryption infrastructure, said American Biometric general manager Marshall Sangster.

"We recognized the need for an affordable, high-quality smart card reader that could deliver the necessary power to perform Cryptoki PKCS No. 11 transactions without impacting end-user productivity," he said, referring to one of the industry's Public Key Cryptographic Standards.

American Biometric, which has relationships with the smart card maker Schlumberger and PKI vendor Entrust Technologies, among others, sells a single CardDrive "security bundle" for $99. Pricing can vary when it is supplied through other channels.

The $100 threshold has been viewed as critical for wide deployment of chip card readers or biometrics on personal computers. Identicator of San Bruno, Calif., has a fingerprint device for keyboards at that price point.

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