National Semiconductor is partnering with start-up Validity to develop a unique fingerprint imaging security solution for smart cards, remote controls, notebook computers, cell phones, PDAs, key fobs and other devices.
Under the deal, National will provide analogue technologies, chip design expertise, investment capital and high-volume manufacturing capabilities, while Validity will provide its patented off-chip fingerprint image acquisition technology called Validator.
"The investment, manufacturing and technology partnership with National Semiconductor will allow Validity to bring a high-volume product to market within a year," Validity CEO Fred Benkley said.
"The Validator fingerprint sensor solves all of the static discharge and wear problems by removing the need for direct finger-to-silicon contact".
The Validator itself consists of an integrated hardware and software solution that measures finger pressure, speed and position, and creates an image of a fingerprint.
The user's finger never touches silicon so there are no wear or static discharge issues, while security is dramatically enhanced due to a unique swipe-sensor design that leaves no latent fingerprints on the device.
The Validator is also OEM-friendly and highly customisable due to its bendable construction and built-in reprogrammable FLASH memory.
The heart of the system is a National 16-bit microprocessor and analogue processing unit that has 288 scanning channels, generating a high-quality 12.5 mm-wide image at resolutions up to 500 dots per inch (dpi).
Users swipe their finger across the sensor, which accepts only good-quality scans.
The Validator uses industry-standard USB, SPI and LPC ports, and also features software drivers for embedded OS and Windows-based machines.
National Semiconductor will manufacture chips for the Validator solution at its state-of-the-art wafer manufacturing facility in South Portland, Maine using National's 0.25-micron complementary metal oxide silicon (CMOS) process.
The companies expect to ship samples to customers late in 2003 or early 2004.
According to the International Biometrics Group (IBG), a leading industry analyst firm, the worldwide market for biometric security products will reach more than US$1 billion ($1.73 billion) in 2003, with fingerprint scan technologies accounting for nearly 49% of this total.
Additionally, the market is expected to grow by more than 40% in 2004.
National Semiconductor is distributed in Australia by Arrow Electronics .