Jeff Brown of SecuGen on the impact of COVID, cybersecurity trends and an innovative new sensor

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SecuGen is a leading player in the field of fingerprint biometrics, with a history stretching back decades; and in this case, the company’s vice president of sales, Jeff Brown, is a familiar face to many in the biometrics industry. With his in-depth expertise and that of SecuGen, many will be interested in getting his analysis and insights from this latest interview with FindBiometrics founder Peter O’Neill.

The conversation covers a lot of ground, with COVID-19 and the big changes the pandemic has brought about being a central focus. Concerns about contact with shared surfaces have had an undeniable impact on the fingerprint biometrics industry, and Brown is approaching the issue frankly. And while the pandemic has continued to present challenges for everyone in the biometrics industry, Brown also discusses some significant victories for SecuGen in recent months, including the integration of a SecuGen sensor into a cart product. medical, the launch of the Unity 20 Serial fingerprint sensor. , and the development of a revolutionary new contactless sensor solution that will soon enter the commercial market.

Read the full interview with Jeff Brown, Vice President of Sales, SecuGen:


Peter O’Neill, Founder, FindBiometrics: Everything in our industry is changing so rapidly, and I’d like to start with an update on a great topic. The last time we spoke, you and I discussed the effects of the pandemic on the use of fingerprint biometrics. Now, as vaccines provide immunity to the public and with wider acceptance that the coronavirus is not spread primarily by surface transmission, how have you seen attitudes towards fingerprint recognition change in recent months?

Jeff Brown, Vice President of Sales, SecuGen: This is a big topic, Peter, and related to this question, I want to tell you about an exciting new product that we are planning to release, but let me save this news for later. Many of the changes we have seen in the wake of the pandemic will be lasting. COVID-19 has forced large numbers of people to work from home. Will they return to the office? Yes, many will, but not everyone. I think a lot of people like this change. Businesses need less office space and fewer utilities. It’s a money saver. Workers like to go from their bedroom to their home office. So while there is and will be a return to work in offices, it will likely be incomplete. We see the hybrid approach becoming part of the new normal.

The same, in my opinion, is true for the biometrics industry. In the beginning, there was a pronounced movement towards contactless biometrics like facial recognition. As you mentioned, scientists have told us that COVID-19 is not transmitted through contact with surfaces. Nonetheless, people want to be safe and are looking for ways to stay even safer. While many people are now less afraid of touching a fingerprint sensor, some are still concerned. It will take a long time to change and may never go back to completely the way it was before.

I think it’s important to stress that there has always been a segment of the market that has been sensitive to this issue. For many years we have been asked to clean the surface of fingerprint readers. At one point, we considered putting an antimicrobial coating on our sensors. This sensitivity to sharing fingerprint readers is something we previously only saw in certain regions and market segments. Now, of course, it’s almost universal.

FindBiometrics: We recently reported on the integration of the U20-A fingerprint sensor from SecuGen into the StatSafe medical cart from Phoenix. We have seen a lot of enthusiasm developing around the healthcare biometrics market. As a company that focuses so heavily on working with developers and integrators, what makes working with healthcare-focused partners like Phoenix unique, and why do they choose to work with? SecuGen?

SecuGen: Well, health care is one of the industries, like banking, where people demand absolute responsibility. You wouldn’t want to give drugs to the wrong patient any more than you want to give money to the wrong client. You would want to make sure that the person dispensing this medication is the qualified medical professional who should be doing it.

SecuGen is organized to work with hardware OEMs such as Phoenix LTC in healthcare and other industries. The process of integrating a fingerprint sensor into a hardware product is a similar task regardless of industry. We focus every day on developing and delivering the products, tools and technical support that OEMS need and expect to be able to integrate with our products. We have over 20 years of experience working with hardware OEMs, as this has been one of the main goals of our business from the start.

FindBiometrics: SecuGen launched its new ultra-compact Unity 20 series in April. Its features – like on-device matching, liveliness detection, small size – make it extremely flexible in terms of potential integrations. I can imagine this works well in retail and business focused scenarios. What type of applications is this new solution best suited to?

SecuGen: Peter, the story of the Unity 20 series is actually a story about the Unity line of sensors. Years ago we were selling a fingerprint sensor connected to a separate board with a cable. The board would provide the intelligence to perform the fingerprint match and return a pass or fail. These cards generally had a serial interface. We have shrunk this board and unified it with the sensor. Hence the name of the product line, Unity. We have also designed Unity sensors to have several possible interfaces in addition to the series to meet the needs of the end user or the application.

The Unity fingerprint sensor board is what makes Unity outperform a regular USB sensor. Unity provides a full Linux programming environment and integrated software that allows you to enroll, match, store and manage fingerprints on the device. All biometric activity is contained in the device without any dependence on the host. The Unity 20 Serial is our first sensor with an RS232 interface which is ideal for what might be considered “legacy” systems such as point of sale machines that only have serial ports. However, like I said, the Unity line is the real story, and the multiple types of connectivity are like the individual characters. The Unity 20 Bluetooth reader is based on this line, just like our Unity 20 USB sensor. They each have the same central sensor and board, but communicate with the outside world in their own way. There will also be other Unity players. The customization of the Unity range makes it not only a powerful development tool for our partners, but also for SecuGen. This gives us the ability to design and deliver a wide variety of products quickly and efficiently.

FindBiometrics: Jeff, you’ve been in this business for a long time. What changes, if any, do you foresee for the biometrics industry over the next two years?

SecuGen: Well Peter, as Mark Twain said, “It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the future.” Of course, no one can predict the details with precision, but sometimes the outlines can be made out in advance. Recently, in response to ransomware attacks directed against US businesses and infrastructure, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the FBI issued recommendations to owners of critical infrastructure assets. One of those recommendations is to implement two-factor authentication for what they call OT and IT networks, which are Information Technology (IT) networks and Operational Technology (OT) networks. of an entity.

This measure may not have stopped the most recent attack. Nonetheless, the US government appears serious in promoting an increased focus on locking down critical infrastructure in this country. This will also resonate outside the United States.

As your readers are well equipped to understand, there are many ways to implement two or more factor authentication, but biometrics is one of the most effective ways, far more secure than pins or words. past. I believe this government push will help accelerate the adoption of biometrics here and around the world. I think our industry has, once again, a chance to help respond to a very serious challenge posed by various malicious actors across the world.

FindBiometrics: What can we expect from SecuGen in the second half of 2021?

SecuGen: We actually have a lot to come. I don’t want to reveal everything, but in the short term you will see an FAP 30 fingerprint reader and sensor, the Hamster Pro 30 and U30 respectively. We are working on a FIDO 2 authenticator, based on the Unity range. But the new product that seems to be generating the most buzz is the Hamster Air, which we’re about to release.

The Hamster Air is a contactless fingerprint reader. This is a contactless one finger USB reader. There are 4 finger contactless and contactless devices on the market, but they are very, very expensive. Not the kind of thing you would be able to buy for your laptop unless you wanted to invest thousands of dollars for the fingerprint reader alone. The Hamster Air has a suggested retail price of just over $ 100. Even at this low price, we are still able to maintain SecuGen’s focus on quality as we do with all of our products.

At the start of the pandemic, like many others, I wore surgical gloves to the supermarket and wiped my groceries on the way home. You will be happy to know that I no longer wipe the groceries. In March 2020, it occurred to me that people were going to want contactless biometrics. It was a fairly easy call. So I asked our VP of Engineering Dan Riley if he thought it was feasible. Within 24 hours, he had built a mock-up of a contactless reader. Dan demonstrated this to our leadership team and our CEO, Won Lee, immediately saw the potential. So we asked our hardware engineers to see what they could offer. They worked quickly and made a fantastic product. It’s amazing what our engineering team was able to do in such a short time. I don’t know of any other product on the market like the Hamster Air. Our partners are thrilled and can’t wait to be able to offer this to their customers.


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