Pen computer checks the identity of its owner

With homebanking and shopping now on the Internet, it has become very important to be able to authenticate financial transactions.

Now, the Inter-university Micor Electronics Centre (IMEC), in Leuven, Belgium, working with LCI, a video conferencing and computing specialist, in Den Boost in the Netherlands, has come up with a solution: the Smartpen. Simple pen functions, bundled together with a miniature computer, have resulted with a highly reliable authenticating device.

The Smartpen is a ballpoint that writes on paper. At the same time, sensors inside the pen capture 3D forces, 3D accelerations and tilts during the writing process. The data is then transmitted to a PC via a wireless data communications link. Verification of the identity of the user does not just depend on the graphic image of the signature, but also on the dynamics of signing – dynamics that are impossible to imitate by other users. The wireless connection to a computer is also tamper-free because of a built-in challenge-response encryption mechanism.

Applications for the pen are enormous. The pen can be used to make Internet transactions secure, to make bank transfers secure, to warrant credit card transactions and to control access to data and networks.

Figure 1: The Smartpen development team had to put an entire computer system into a pen: sensors, a mouse, a digital signal processor, a radio transmitter and receiver, and an encryption system

{{IMECTel: Belgium +32 16 281 211Enter 400}}