NTU, SingTel Form M-Commerce Consortium

SingTel, together with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University and several industry partners, have formed a Biometrics Enabled Mobile Commerce (BEAM) consortium to jointly conduct research and develop solutions for biometrics-enabled mobile commerce.

Industry players forming the BEAM consortium include ATTS Pte. Ltd., HP Singapore, Infineon Technologies Asia Pacific, PrivyLink and ST Electronics. The consortium has identified several areas of R&D interest:

* low-cost fingerprint sensor and recognition system
* integrated solution for biometrics verification on smart cards
* e-security and payment modes
* new mobile devices with integrated fingerprint recognition capability
* mobile broadband services and applications that can support future biometrics mobile commerce

Initial R&D work has already started on two of the five areas of interest, said Yau Wei Yun, program director for the BEAM consortium and program manager for Biometrics Signal Processing at NTU’s Center for Signal Processing (CSP). He added that NTU’s CSP and School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering have been working together on these two areas since November 2000.

“We have been working on how to incorporate fingerprint identification into handheld devices, using low-cost sensors, and how to perform fingerprint matching on smart cards,” Yau said, adding that the technology development will help facilitate personalization of PDA applications such as for the healthcare and retail industries.

“For example, consumers can load their personal information such as credit card details into their PDAs so that any time they conduct m-commerce, all the information required will be ready on hand. This information can then only be accessed by the person whose fingerprint matches that stored on the handheld,” he explained.

According to Yau, projects undertaken by the BEAM consortium could conceivably take up to 15 months to develop, and three to nine months to undergo campus trials. NTU’s campus-wide wireless LAN (which has enough bandwidth to simulate a 3G system), and its hardware loan program offering 1,500 handheld HP Jornada palmtop PCs to students and staff, will provide fertile testing ground for BEAM projects.

One of the main costs of embarking on such R&D work is capital expenditure on human resources, Yau said, but companies working with NTU on tech development may be able to find some financial relief from BEAM consortium supporter IDA (Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore).

Said an IDA spokesperson, “Each company, working with NTU, may seek to approach IDA and leverage on some of our scheme/programs in their product development efforts. Each project proposal will be evaluated based on its merits and the scope of the work.”

Yau added that the BEAM consortium will continue to be on the lookout for new members, in particular the credit card companies or local banks, university research centers, software application providers, transport companies and smart card companies.

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