HP adds fingerprint scanner and WLAN to iPaq PDA

Hewlett-Packard is preparing a series of iPaq personal digital assistants with a built-in fingerprint scanner and WLAN (wireless...

Hewlett-Packard is preparing a series of iPaq personal digital assistants with a built-in fingerprint scanner and WLAN (wireless LAN) support.

South Korea's LG Electronics, which will make the iPaq Pocket PC h5400 series machines, released details to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Because the PDAs transmit radio signals as part of their WLAN and Bluetooth personal area networking functions, the PDAs need FCC approval before they can be sold in the US.

The 5400 series models are, technically, similar in many ways to the company's existing iPaq 3900 series and are based on the same Intel PXA250 XScale processor running at 400MHz. The biggest change comes in the addition of a fingerprint scanner and WLAN support.

The fingerprint scanner is located in the lower part of the PDA's face between the four function buttons and underneath the main control button. It is a thin bar that can only scan a portion of the user's finger and so requires the user to swipe his or her finger over the sensor so that the whole fingerprint can be captured - an operation that takes between one and two seconds.

The fingerprint scan is one of several log-in options available to security-conscious users. The others are a simple four-digit PIN, strong alphanumeric password or combination of these, such as a fingerprint scan and password.

The WLAN function, which appears to be standard across all models in the range, supports up to 128-bit wired equivalent privacy encryption.

HP might also boost the amount of memory available in the PDAs. The specifications submitted to the FCC in July specify "64MB or greater" user memory, suggesting configurations above 64Mbytes will be available. No models in the 3900 series have more than 64Mbytes of memory.

Otherwise, functions are similar to those in the 3900 series. The 5400 series models have a similar trans-reflective LCD capable of 240 pixel by 320 pixel resolution and 64K colours, have a Secure Digital (SD) memory card slot with support for SDIO peripherals and have an infrared port that enables the PDA to act as a remote control for consumer electronics, according to the documents.

Bluetooth wireless networking is built into some models.

The PDAs are expected to reach the US market before the end of this year.

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