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Businessweek Archives

A Gatekeeper That Takes You At Face Value

Bits & Bytes


ALTHOUGH YOUR FACE might not be remarkable enough to launch a thousand ships, it could soon be instrumental for launching your PC. Boston-based Miros Inc. has developed a facial-recognition software program to prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to PCs holding sensitive information. Installed on a camera-equipped PC, CyberWatch software can take a picture of the person seeking access and compare it with a previously stored facial image in its database. The system can't be thrown by haircuts, jewelry, or other distractions, the company says, because it uses special algorithms known as neural network programming to match the overall picture of a person's face, rather than comparing images on a pixel by pixel basis.

John McCormick, director of sales at Miros, says CyberWatch works as reliably as fingerprint readers and costs less. The company figures its customer base to be huge, targeting financial companies, brokerages, government agencies, health-care providers, and other companies that routinely store sensitive information on PCs. CyberWatch costs $199 for the software and is due for release this fall.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE By Paul JudgeReturn to top


APPLE COMPUTER INC. may have hit hard times, but it still has lots of avid fans. At the MacWorld trade show in Boston in August, thousands lined up to hear CEO Gilbert F. Amelio's keynote speech. A big draw for the faithful: A sneak peek at some of the advanced features of Copland, a long-awaited massive upgrade of the Mac operating system.

Although the operating system is already years late, Amelio--and Mac fanatics--are counting on Copland to reestablish Apple's edge over Microsoft Corp. Among Copland's highlights: a format that will make it easier for Mac users to find and open files, whether the information is on their hard drive, corporate network, or the Internet. A search engine will summarize the contents of a document in a sentence or two. And a feature called Data Detectors will scan for useful tidbits such as E-mail addresses. As for the Internet, advanced graphics technologies in Copland will let programmers create fanciful new worlds--say, by adding human facial movements onto cartoon characters. That way, an online Mickey Mouse can smile, frown, and wink just like a real person.

But it's not clear when--if ever--the Mac will get all of these features. Instead of one giant Copland OS, Apple now plans to release upgrades incorporating new features every six months, beginning in January, 1997.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE By Peter BurrowsReturn to top


NEXT TIME YOU CHARGE A purchase at a store, you may end up signing a computer screen instead of a paper slip. PenWare Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has created a credit-card terminal that lets retailers eliminate paper receipts--and save a bundle in handling costs. The $800 PenWare 3000 is a book-size computer with a pressure-sensitive backlit screen and a credit-card swiper down one side. Your John Hancock is captured electronically using an untethered stylus and stored digitally in a database.

Although PenWare 3000 costs about four times as much as current credit card terminals, the company argues that the machine will pay for itself quickly in more accurate transactions and reduced record-keeping expenses. PenWare officials say major chains are currently evaluating the device. But soon stores could encounter a new problem: How to keep customers from accidentally walking away with the $3 stylus.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE By Andy ReinhardtReturn to top

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