IBM and four partners have announced what they call a "major breakthrough" in identity management designed to help business and government agencies protect assets, including IT systems and physical facilities, from unauthorised users.
IBM's Kent Blossom, director of the company's safety and security services, called the new smartcard-based system a "first-time ever" combination of a variety of physical and virtual security measures.
The new system - using IBM's Tivoli ID management software and products from ActivCard, Bioscrypt, ImageWare Solutions and VeriSign - allows clients to link biometric security, such as fingerprint scans, with applications and networks.
In a demonstration, IBM employees created a smartcard within minutes that could be used with a fingerprint scan for a company employee to gain access to a building and to the employee's computer. The card can also be used as a traditional swipe card to gain access to a lunchroom meal plan or a company parking lot. The smartcard could contain several other applications, including digital certificates.
Instead of an employee entering passwords to gain access, the smartcard contained the passwords. Each smartcard can be programmed to give individual employees access to facilities or networks they need, Blossom said.
The new ID management suite allows customers to simplify identity management and authentication processes, according to IBM.
Lost employee passwords can cost up to $40 (£22.50) per help-desk call, and password problems can take up 30% to 50% of a company help-desk's time, Blossom said.
"There's a big cost for this whole password management issue that we haven't been able to get our arms around, and that's lost productivity," he added.
US government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley are requiring companies to adopt new security measures, Blossom said.
The White House has also required all government agencies to issue "secure and reliable forms of identification" for their employees and contractors, he noted.
IBM also announced a new laptop with a fingerprint scanner built in, the new T42 model.
The ID management suite is available immediately through IBM Government Security Consulting. Pricing depends on what products are ordered; the suite can include security cameras, card readers and other devices.
Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service