Intel Seeks to Eliminate Computer Passwords With Wave of Hand

Intel Corp. (INTC) wants to do away with computer passwords.

Research scientists at Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, demonstrated a system that recognizes the pattern of veins in the palm of a hand as it’s waved over a sensor, eliminating the need for the string of numbers and letters now used to gain access to phones, computers or websites.

“Nobody likes passwords,” Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said in an interview before presenting the work in progress at a meeting for developers today. “This completely removes this deeply inconvenient notion of passwords.”

Rattner leads a team of more than a thousand scientists worldwide who seek future uses for Intel’s chips and the devices that they run. His team includes anthropologists and even science-fiction writers who study people and try to imagine how they can use technology that Intel’s processors would enable. An increasing amount of Intel’s lab work is focused on solutions to more near-term, real-life problems, Rattner said.

While other so-called biometric identification devices are already in common use, Intel’s system goes further, he said. Once the machine has identified a user, embedded hardware and software connects with all the other protected services -- say, online banking -- that person would normally access.

For added protection, the machines will contain additional sensors that detect when a user has stepped away and will automatically lock down access to all connected machines and sites, he said.

Rattner also took pains to reassure people who may be concerned that miscreants might resort to violence to gain access to a person’s palm.

“Severed hands won’t work because you have to have blood flow,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ian King in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at

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