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Zwipe Offers Fingerprint-Authenticated RFID Access-Control Card

The passive RFID card has a built-in fingerprint scanner to verify a user's identity and make sure that only authorized personnel gain entrance to a facility.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 18, 2013

Norwegian startup Zwipe is marketing a new passive Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID access-control card that incorporates a fingerprint scanner to authenticate an individual before the card responds to an RFID reader. Initially, the company has signed contracts with two access-control technology distributors—one in the United States and the other in Europe—both of which have asked to remain unnamed.

Commercial release of the card, known as Zwipe Access, follows two pilots in Oslo—one conducted at Telemark University College (TUC), and the other at law firm Simonsen Vogt Wiig—says Kim Kristian Humborstad, Zwipe's CEO and cofounder. The card is also being tested by several other small Norwegian companies, he says. At Simonsen Vogt Wiig, the Zwipe technology is being used by the law firm's Stanley Security Solutions NFC-based access-control system. At TUC, as well as for several other pilots, Zwipe is providing a Salto Systems X4 door controller with a built-in RFID reader that supports cards made with NXP Semiconductors' Mifare DESFire EV1 chip.

Zwipe's card includes a passive RFID inlay, LED indicator lights and a built-in scanner that can verify a fingerprint within 1 second, using encrypted fingerprint data stored on the card.
Zwipe Access was first conceived by Humborstad and a fellow student at TUC's school of innovation and entrepreneurship, Humborstad explains. Initially, he says, the team was focused on creating secure identification solutions that could authenticate an individual without intruding upon the user's privacy. They were interested in how technology could be employed at grocery or convenience stores, for example, to prove a customer buying liquor or other controlled products was who he said he was. Eventually, Humborstad reports, they found a market for improved authentication with access-control systems.

According to Humborstad, the majority of contactless access-control systems currently being sold in many countries, including those in Europe, use high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz NFC RFID technology compliant with the ISO 14443 standard, though in the United States, low-frequency (LF) contactless access-control systems are still more commonly installed than those utilizing NFC technology. Although many companies, schools and agencies use RFID cards to access secured areas, the technology deployed is generally ill-equipped to prove that a card is being used by its actual owner. Numerous facilities utilize fingerprint authentication to enable individuals to prove their identity prior to gaining access to a place or device, but this requires that they share a fingerprint or other personal information on a database—which, for some, raises a privacy concern.

The solution, according to Humborstad, is the combination of RFID and fingerprint identification, stored only on the card. Each Zwipe Access card contains an NXP Mifare Classic or Mifare DESFire EV1 passive RFID chip. The unique ID number encoded to the card's chip can be stored either on the reader, or on a server with a Wi-Fi connection to that device. The fingerprint scanner hardware, provided by a firm called Fingerprint Cards (FPC), is wired to the NFC tag, and both are built into the card. When a user places a thumb over the scanner, the card compares the fingerprint with the scanned version stored in its memory. If there is a match, the card transmits its tag ID in order to unlock the door.

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