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A normal glass pane?

Wiesław Bicz   

Some of readers of this article have certainly had an opportunity of using so called credit card terminal (through it credit card users can pay in shops or restaurants). The device possesses a keyboard, display, card reader, eventually a printer, is capable of connecting with a bank computer and check solvency of the card's holder, but the most importantly it can compare the entered PIN with the reference number encoded in the card. This is to prevent execution of transactions by unauthorized people. However it is commonly known that this does not provide too much of an obstacle for greater and greater number of frauds. Many specialists today are of an opinion that the truly effective protection could only be a technology allowing an infallible recognition of the card's holder.

For some time now many firms have been working on this problem. They have been trying to create devices that could recognize people through analysis of their voice, facial features, iris pattern, and primarily fingerprint lines. Especially the latest possibility seems to be very interesting. Not only because fingerprint lines provide infallible identification of an individual and do not change over time, but also because the chances are that the devices required for that could be small and simple in operation. There is also some hope that they could not be deceived?

Devices capable of recognizing people certainly have not gained popularity yet, but even now one can announce beginnings of a new branch of industry called "biometry." Analysis of situation in this branch is not the purpose of this article, I only would like to introduce a technology which gives a chance of fulfilling all and any requirements and even offering much more. For I believe that the devices whose construction the technology enables will soon become popular - although they will often remain out of sight. For they can be integrated in many of presently existing items in such a way that it will be difficult to notice that they have been fitted with new functions. Their user will not have to worry too much about being recognized - this may happen to some extend by itself.

This technology has been being developed in a Wrocław's firm Optel and utilizes ultrasonic waves for analysis of pattern of fingerprint lines on bulbs. Researchers of this firm were the first who proposed employment of ultrasonic waves for this purpose and they showed that those waves serve this purpose particularly well. For creation of devices of practical use there were required many years of work. Really interesting, however, will be the series version of this device whose prototype can be ready in the second half of the current year.

The device will be comprised of electronics and a normal glass plate, which will have to be modified only on the edges and therefore it could be used also for other purposes. Here there is employed the phenomenon of the sound waves that move in the plate changing their form when the plate is touched by some object. The changes are registered and the gathered information facilitates reconstruction of an image of the object, which has been pressed down on to the plate. Because the numerical procedures that are utilized there employ ideas taken from holography, it can be said that this device is a sort of an ultrasonic holographic camera (as the matter of fact the only one of this kind in the world).

It is easy to notice that such a plate will "see" not only finger bulbs but also will recognize their location. Thus it can replace a keyboard or mouse. It can also of course recognize location of e.g. the tip of a pencil and to follow its movement. Thus it will also facilitate a function of a graphical board enabling drawing or recognition of handwriting. However this would not suffice for identification of people - fortunately enough sound waves can both recognize the materials getting in contact with the plate and penetrate the finger itself. This allows ascertaining the qualities of the finger: If it is live and not artificial by "seeing" whether (and how) blood is circulating in it. In such a situation it does not seem as frauds could be left with any chances ?

As anyone can see the future credit cards terminal could be fitted only with a "sensitive glass plate" possessing a display on its back and of course some content of electronics. Also the card reader can be spared its usual wear as information, which should be read from the card would be placed there in form of a relief. Thus it could be seen the same way as fingerprint lines could be seen.

"A sensitive plate" could find use also for different purposes - not only in conjunction with credit cards: Placed at a door it could serve a purpose of an access control device (although seemingly it would not differ at any extend from a normal glass pane), it can replace computer keyboards, mice and graphical pads (it could look at the same time similar to today's touch screens, but there is no obstacle that it could be used as a table top). In a miniature form it could also serve a function of a button starting up e.g. a machine only when it is pressed by an authorized person. And if there are still people for whom those perspectives seem not interesting enough, maybe the use of this technology in door locks fitted with a handle that would turn only when held be an authorized person could spark their imagination?