Top consumer biometric gadgets for 2013
It’s this time of year that the term “gadget” gets thrown around quite a bit.
“Gifts for the gadget-lover on your list,” “the year’s best gadgets,” “joy for gadget-hungry consumers” and “last-minute gadget gift ideas” are just a few of the lines I’ve heard on TV in the last couple of hours.
Snuggies, coffee makers, clock radios – these are shelf-filler at best.
Let’s be honest, biometric devices are the ultimate “gadgets.” They’re just starting to make their mark on the consumer space, they mirror the technology that’s been a fixture in science fiction for decades, they’re responsive in a way that Snuggies never could be, and the people using them proudly boast their early-adopter status.
At BiometricUpdate.com, we’ve compiled what we think is an exciting overview of the coolest biometric gadgets and trends in the consumer space this holiday season.
The launch of Apple’s iPhone 5S dominated discussion around mobile biometrics in September, and it hasn’t really cooled down since. Apple is known to bring out new technologies early, and the AuthenTec fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S is no exception.
This is a cool device, but it’s far from perfect.
If you love the Apple ecosystem, and are determined to get an iPhone with biometrics, then this is the device for you. But if you’re an Android user, or someone who wants more flexibility with your biometric data, then you might want to wait for the new year to see what comes out – it’s been rumored there will be many launches in 2014.
So far, there have been reports that the 5S is easily spoofed, its proprietary form limits real use and it doesn’t always work. Gartner even came out to suggest that smartphone manufacturers not follow Apple’s example with the launch of the 5S.
Apple deserves kudos for being the first major manufacturer to launch a smartphone with a fingerprint sensor, and that’s why the 5S has earned a spot on this list.
A pricey device, the 16GB model of the 5S retails for $719, the 32GB model costs $819 and the 64GB will run you $919.
HTC One Max
Before the HTC One Max launched, a fingerprint sensor was expected, and sure enough, the rumors were right and the phone launched with biometric capabilities.
Featuring a fingerprint sensor on the back of the device, the HTC One Max allows users to lock and unlock the screen with their fingerprint, and to launch up to three favorite apps by assigning an individual fingerprint to each. That is, your index fingerprint could be set to open Facebook, your middle finger to open your email app, etc.
This is a larger device that arguably falls into the phablet category.
Cnet gives this device a “very good” rating, but notes that the fingerprint sensor doesn’t always recognize fingerprint swipes.
The HTC One Max has an MSRP of $749.99, without a contract.
Pantech’s Vega LTE-A, Vega Secret Note, Vega Secret Up and IM-A900 series smartphones
Pantech has been busy launching Android smartphones with fingerprint sensors in Korea, and so far reception has been pretty good. Fingerprint Cards manufactures the fingerprint sensors for these phones, and has seen incredible demand in the Asian market for more.
Though there isn’t a lot available out there right now, it’s more than likely there will be soon. Since 2012, Fingerprint Cards has been announcing design wins with unnamed smartphone manufacturers for its fingerprint sensors, which means the market could soon be flooded with both high- and low-end Android devices sporting fingerprint sensors.
Precise Biometrics has long touted its Tactivo case as a way to add biometric authentication to smartphones. The case features a smart card reader as well as a fingerprint sensor and has seen strong adoption figures in the government space.
The Tactivo was originally launched for the iPhone and iPad, but has now been expanded to include Android and Windows OS devices, thanks to a new Tactivo Mini device with a mini USB connector.
FingerQ Android smartphone cases
FingerQ has developed a line of smartphone cases that includes an embedded fingerprint sensor to add biometric functionality to a series of Android devices.
So far, the Hong-Kong-based company only makes cases for the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, Note II, Note 3 and the HTC One.
The Q-cases as they are called, allow users to encrypt messages and add fingerprint authentication to selected apps. Unfortunately, unlocking the smartphone still requires a PIN or pattern input (Android OS-specific).
FingerQ cases retail for about $100.
Besides being on this list of biometric devices, the Xbox One is one of the hottest electronic items this holiday season, along with the PlayStation 4. Having launched recently, the Xbox One features some pretty awesome facial recognition functions for users. The new platform gaming device uses the Kinect camera to detect users’ faces and log them into the system, along with their customized options and targeted-ads. This includes favorite apps, color schemes and game data. The cool part is that the Xbox recognizes multiple faces, and in a multi-player environment, allows new players to join without having to go through a sign-in process.
The Xbox One retails for $499.99
Microsoft certainly isn’t the only platform player that has introduced facial recognition to its gaming experience. Sony’s new console also uses facial recognition to recognize and log in its users.
Before launch, there were rumors that Sony would say goodbye to its long-used DualShock in favour of a new controller which would feature fingerprint biometrics, though the system launched with a DualShock 4 non-biometric controller.
The PlayStation 4 retails for $399
Bionym came out of the gates like a bolt of lightning when it announced its biometric ECG bracelet product, The Nymi. The small Toronto-based company announced Nymi in Fall 2013 and saw massive interest from around the world.
The Nymi uses an embedded electrocardiogram sensor to ambiently identify users. It recognizes unique ECG patterns and interfaces directly with mobile devices as a replacement for passwords and PINs. Based on the kind of on-going recognition this device employs, users remain authenticated until the bracelet itself is removed. Using ECG authentication, Bionym is really breaking new ground with this device, and the wearable technology space couldn’t be hotter at the moment.
The Nymi isn’t currently available, but people are jumping in line to pre-order for $79 and get their hands on one as soon as the device launches. This is the only device on this list that isn’t currently available to buy, but any true gadget-lover would certainly accept proof of a pre-ordered Nymi as the coolest biometric gift under the tree this year.
The e-Health Sensor Shield Platform
Cooking Hacks, the open hardware division of Libelium, a wireless sensor networks platform provider for Smart Cities solutions, recently launched the e-Health Sensor Shield platform, a biometric sensor platform to give the maker community tools that use Arduino and Raspberry Pi open source hardware platforms to monitor patients’ conditions.
This new sensor adds sensing capability for nine unique biometric parameters, such as pulse, blood pressure, oxygen in blood, electrocardiogram, airflow, glucometer, galvanic skin response, patient position and body temperature, to give the Arduino and Raspberry Pi community a way to develop new e-Health applications and products.
The complete e-health sensor platform kit sells for about $620.