Microsoft PCs running the Windows 10 operating system will soon offer users a new way to keep their devices secure: a keyboard with a hidden fingerprint sensor built into one of the keys. According to the company behind the sensor technology, such devices could eventually enable "a future without passwords."
Developed by a Sweden-based biometrics component company called Fingerprint Cards, the built-in sensor is "coming soon" in the Microsoft Modern Keyboard priced at $129.99. The accessory will support both wired and wireless use, according to Microsoft.
The fingerprint ID-enabled keyboard is a first for such an accessory, as it incorporates a biometric sensor into what looks like an ordinary keyboard key, according to Fingerprints. Developed as part of its new focus on Windows 10 PCs announced earlier this year, the low-profile, aluminum-top keyboard will help users verify their identities for secure online purchasing, Fingerprints said.
PC Security Needs 'Very High'
"This launch is a very interesting step for the rapidly moving PC industry," Niklas Strid, Fingerprint's senior vice president for the PC and embedded business line, said yesterday in a company news announcement. "Security requirements within PC are very high, so this launch is also proof that we're able to expand with our existing product offering."
Strid said that developing biometric technology for PC appications is "quite similar" to what the company has already been doing for mobile devices. Fingerprints makes integrated sensors that are built into a number of smartphones and tabled produced by original equipment manufacturers, and has recently begun moving into new market areas.
"[A]pproximately 10 billion other products are produced each year -- such as smartcards and door locks -- which could all be made more secure and easier to use if fitted with a biometric solution," president and CEO Christian Fredrikson noted in the company's 2016 year-end report, published in February. "There is large potential for us in these new market segments and I am convinced that we are currently only at the very infancy of the biometric era..."
Encryption, Enclave-Only Storage for Biometric Info
The Fingerprints Cards company announced in January that it planned to make its biometric touch sensors available for a wide range of PC uses by supporting Intel-based processors used for Windows 10. It said its first-generation product uses microcontroller-launched software to connect a touch sensor to the protected "enclave" of a PC's central processing unit.
The technology uses hardware-based encryption for enclave-only storage of biometric information, Fingerprints Card said, ensuring that such data and images are protected from potential errors within a PC's OS and other applications.
"The threat of identity compromise and theft of personal information are becoming an increasing concern for PC users, especially as the boundaries between professional and personal use continues to blend," Strid said in the company's January news announcement. "Our new product offering allows PC users to use their fingerprints to safely store their credentials, say goodbye to their difficult-to-remember passwords, identify themselves with Windows Hello and make secure payments."