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Chip-based fingerprint systems are in demand

Silicon chip-based fingerprint systems will experience strong growth from next year, according to US research group Frost & Sullivan.

Several developments in mobile phones, handheld devices and laptops will drive this growth one study claimed. The availability of very small, inexpensive chip-based sensors that fit into these devices and users' demands for greater security will also drive this market..

However, the market for silicon chip fingerprint systems is still relatively small. In 2001, it generated a mere $5.1m (£3.3m) in revenue. But the research group expects the market to grow to $424.6m (£277m) by 2006. Unit shipments, it estimates, will grow from 220,000 units in 2001 to 171.3 million units in 2006.

Until now, optical sensors have been used in fingerprint systems but will face increased competition from chip-based sensors, largely because of their size and price.

Several chip makers, including Germany's Infineon Technologies, Switzerland's STMicroelectronics, Japan's Fujitsu Microelectronics and Atmel of the US, are well positioned to become major suppliers of chips for fingerprint systems, said Frost & Sullivan.

Many of these companies are also expected to form partnerships with manufacturers of laptop computers and other portable devices. STMicroelectronics, for instance, is already supplying technology to South Korea's Samsung Electronics.

Other groups showing interest in chip-based fingerprint systems include carmakers, suppliers of ATMs and point-of-sale (POS) terminals, and government and law enforcement agencies, Frost & Sullivan said.

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