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HMI`s fingerprint sensor restricts control system access

01 April, 2005

HMI`s fingerprint sensor restricts control system access

A pair of small British engineering companies has come up with an HMI with a built-in fingerprint recognition system that restricts access to a control system to authorised users. The HMI, developed by Derby-based AJM Automation and Leicester-based Ultima Control Systems, is designed to overcome the problems of pilfered or forgotten passwords, and to provide improved traceability, especially in food and pharmaceutical applications.

In these sectors, the new system will help users to comply with US Food and Drug Administration`s 21CFR11 regulation which is designed to prevent any tampering with products during manufacture, as well as ensuring that traceability records are secure.

The fingerprint-protected HMI (shown above) is the brainchild of AJM director Andy Markgraf, whose company distributes touchscreen HMIs made by CTC Parker Hannifin Automation. He has customised CTC`s latest PX15 PowerStation model by adding a stainless-steel front bezel that meets food hygiene standards and incorporates the fingerprint recogniser.

The software and electronics have been handled by Ultima which is a systems integrator for CTC`s InteractX HMI software. The resulting HMI is designed to comply with 21CFR11 "out of the box".

The system is flexible enough to allow the fingerprint recognition to be used with or without conventional password security measures. It can also provide several levels of access, from local monitoring, to full control of an installation.

The fingerprint sensor, supplied by a US specialist in this technology called Authentec, "looks" below the surface layer of dead skin to the live skin underneath, thus avoiding the problem of fingerprints not being recognised because of cuts or scratches. According to Ultima`s Gareth Cole, there is a one in 5.1 million chance of the system accepting an unauthorised fingerprint.

CTC is considering including the adapted version of its HMI in its catalogue. According to Markgraf, this would "polevault us into massive global market opportunities". He reckons that the fingerprint recognition system will add about £1,500 to the cost of an HMI.

AJM and Ultima are looking at the possibility of adopting other biometric technologies, such as retinal recognition, in future. Cole believes that within 6-12 months, this emerging technology could be reliable, rugged and affordable enough for industrial applications. It could be particularly useful for operator identification in areas such as clean rooms where the use of gloves precludes the use of the fingerprint technology.

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