Touching the future
The futuristic prospect of fingerprint activated locking is expected to become a consumer reality within six to nine months following the October announcement of American biometric security company ODI Security. The breakthrough is a prototype mobile lock solution which combines ODI Security’s embedded fingerprint modules with Servocell’s AL2 Active Latch low power piezoelectric locking module.
Servocell’s Active Latch is a very low power solution, creating a viable battery life for small, mobile locks as well as immovable locks.
Since this does away with the need for wiring, Servocell’s development clears the way for electronically operated locking to be incorporated into all sorts of applications, including doors and windows.
The new mobile lock solution is a 11⁄2-inch square module incorporating a printed circuit, and this can be shrunk further. It is the subject of 14 patents.
ODI’s technology is activated by either swiping the finger across the module, or placing it on an imager.
Up to 20 users can be programmed into the unit but locking speed degrades with the number of users—under a second with less than 10 users. Importantly, the device only reads an extraction or portion of the fingerprint. As one would expect, “‘false accepts”’ are usually caused by family members.
ODI will be developing modules specifically for padlocks, bicycle locks, cabinet locking and many other applications. Fujitsu, which provides the sensor for ODI’s module, is already a customer for the device, and is developing it for the automotive market.
A bicycle lock is a particular application where the user might be prepared to pay premium for the convenience of not having to carry a key, says Rich Slevin, managing director of California based ODI. “These kind of products have a tremendous cool factor,” he says.
Just as important though, is Servocell’s compact low power locking module, which means that many more locking devices will be electronic. The Active Latch battery has a life of around half a million operations and gives 2,000 slow operation warnings. A maintenance program might mean a battery swap every three years.
The device might be fingerprint operated, or radio frequency identity operated, depending on the application.
“In 10 years time it is entirely possible that fingerprint will be the dominant technology,” says Simon Powell, CEO of Servocell. “But in some situations making contact with your finger is no more convenient than making contact with a key.”
Berkshire-based Codelocks Ltd. is already using a Servocell piezo actuator in its 5000 Electronic coded access control lock. And Servocell has entered into formal agreements with a manufacturer to develop a multipoint door lock incorporating the Active Latch and the options of biometric and RFID locking. “Whether or not we have a key over-ride is subject to debate,” Powell says.
He expects the product to be on the market by Autumn 2006, a timescale that takes his own optimism into account.
“I will certainly have one on my house,” he adds.