Security firm finds itself lured to Md. Identification Technologies likes talent pool

Your face as passkey

Columbia most likely site for headquarters

February 10, 1997|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,SUN STAFF

A small Florida security-equipment company is moving its headquarters to Maryland, hoping that being close to federal agencies will help it build a business from technology that controls access to buildings, computer networks and bank teller machines with a high-tech method for recognizing faces.

Identification Technologies International Inc. will move its headquarters to Maryland from Miami by year's end, said Kenneth C. Weiss, the newly hired president and chief operating officer. About 20 people work for the company now, about half of them engineers, and the company plans to build its sales force locally, Weiss said. The headquarters will probably be in Columbia.

"One of the reasons we're moving here [is] the talent pool," said Weiss, who lived in Columbia before getting the job. "There's a good pool of talent locally. All the federal agencies are in this area. It's a natural progression."

Chuck Porcari, spokesman for Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, said Identification Technologies has not yet sought any help from the department with the relocation.

"It's certainly logical that they would want to develop this technology in this area," Porcari said.

Identification Technologies was founded in 1994 by David Brendel Hertz, a retired partner of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. and now chairman of the company. Hertz hired engineers from the University of Miami to develop his concept. The systems will compete against companies selling technology that recognizes people by their fingerprints, handprints or patterns in their eyes, Weiss said.

"You don't have to touch it, and it doesn't touch you," Weiss said of his company's system. "The second positive is that people are used to being recognized by their face. It doesn't offend people. People don't view it as an intrusion into their privacy."

Identification Technologies' systems work by recognizing the specific details of a person's face, reducing fine distinctions such as the distance between one's eyes or the crook of one's nose to 96 bytes of software algorithm. The company claims the system fails only once in every 2,000 attempts to deceive it, and that it can even tell apart identical twins.

"There's no two snowflakes alike, and there's no two faces alike either," Weiss said. "The question is, how detailed can you get?"

The company is still in its infancy. Weiss said Identification Technology made its first sales only in November. But the company is seeking to hit $15 million in annual sales within two years.

"I don't want to call it conservative, but it's on the conservative side, obviously," Weiss said. Because security packages are often sold to large organizations that need complicated, multiple-unit solutions, "you tend to be either very small or you're selling a million dollars' worth," Weiss said. "There's not a lot in between."

The company hopes its system, called One-to-One, can begin to supplant Personal Identification Numbers as the primary security system for automated teller machines, Weiss said. Citibank is testing the system.

Two health-care firms are also using the company's systems in a pilot test to keep more accurate, tamper-proof records of their employees' attendance. Federal agencies are key targets because so many have confidential information to protect, Weiss added.

"You can't give your face away," he said. "You wouldn't punch a PIN number; you'd walk up to the machine and the camera would recognize you, as opposed to a PIN number you could lose and someone else could use."

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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