By: Jonathan Kwan
June 13, 2007
When passwords just aren't cutting it, we all know that there are feasible alternatives. Biometric security is, by one sense, a very prominent solution in this area. The presence of fingerprint readers are slowly being recognized by both commercial and computer enthusiast market -- and through this, we can observe its path into creating its own importance into the target user group. Plus, it looks and sounds really cool. With the emergence of new products such as UPEK's Eikon Digital Privacy Manager, how well does it achieve its primary purpose, as well as other nifty aspects of it? Let's take a look at this biometric security device in our article today.
Our review unit of UPEK's Eikon Digital Privacy Manager arrived very quickly in an UPS Express envelope, from their offices in California. I was pretty surprised how little packaging was used -- it was not even in a bubble-lined envelope. However, the fingerprint reader itself was wrapped carefully by a bubble wrap.
UPEK did mention to us that the retail package of the Eikon Digital Privacy Manager is contained within a blister pack. Our unit used for review was sent to us without packaging; but included everything out of the box as you'd expect from a retail version -- the Eikon Digital Privacy Manager fingerprint reader itself, a setup poster/brief manual, accompanied by a driver and software CD. A full 84 page PDF manual is located on the CD.
It seems to us that UPEK is very confident in the quality of their products, because everything arrived in literally perfect, scratch free condition!
And to add to that, UPS handled the package very well, much unlike DHL and their soccer ball obsession ;)
The UPEK Eikon Digital Privacy Manager (Left) is a slim fingerprint reader with design and aesthetics in mind. Located on the right side of the photo above is Digital Persona's 4000B fingerprint reader we reviewed over a year ago.
The Eikon's design is on the 'serious' but contemporary side with a clean, office feel to it. The primary color scheme is silver and black, with an array of blue dots on the finger sliding track. With such a sleek design, the footprint is very small -- definitely suitable for both home and office use. This makes the fingerprint reader very professional looking in my opinion.
With the Eikon, a finger sliding track is designed into the device to make it obvious to the user where to put the finger to begin, and guide its moving track as the fingerprint is scanned (More on this fingerprint reading method shortly). Its raised front design is quite comfortable to use; where the back is relatively flat and the front is raised sharply. The highest point is near the front -- where the fingerprint scanning is completed and the user is supposed to remove their finger from this point.
The 'UPEK' logo and letters lights up blue and flashes like a HDD LED as fingerprints are being read.
The bottom of this device grips adequately with a standard, flat desk surface to prevent unnecessary and/or excessive sliding when the user's fingerprint is read.
The biggest difference between the Eikon and DigitalPersona is the way it reads fingerprints. Digital Persona's (As you have noticed the inconsistency of spaces, but according to the company 'Digital Persona' is the company name; and 'DigitialPersona', without the space, is the product line) implementation is a push-and-scan fingerprint reading method, lit by a red LED. The Eikon, on the other hand, is the way most biometric security enabled laptops implement it -- with a slide-and-scan system.
The manual suggests the user to place the last joint of the finger over the reading lens, and then slide the finger past. In the finger sliding track, UPEK nicely colored the dots differently of where to place the finger to begin, so the joint corresponds with the intended starting point. At least with my finger anyway, it's measured out perfectly.
The sensor can also function as a scrolling device; similar to the side scroll strip on a laptop touchpad. It can also be tapped to simulate a click in the Biomenu (More on this later).
Usage and Software
A fingerprint reader is nothing without the software, right? The software is just as important as the hardware. Let's examine aspects of the software today.
I've tested the UPEK Eikon Digital Privacy Manager under Windows Vista. After popping the CD in with a quick installation, I needed a reboot. Then, I logged back into Windows as usual.
The UPEK software added an extra icon to my system tray, which cannot be hidden. Anyway, as I logged onto Windows, a few prompts and help balloons came up -- one of which included the following:
Update: The UPEK Eikon Digital Privacy Manager is now Mac compatible as well.
It quickly detected and recognized Firefox correctly. I clicked 'Yes' and it automatically installed the necessary software without further prompts!
Also, a taskbar balloon originating from the new UPEK tray icon came up informing me that no biometric hardware is detected. I plugged it in, and the drivers were loaded for 'TouchChip Fingerprint Coprocessor' which is listed under the 'Biometric' section in Device Manager of Windows Vista. Now it's almost up and running; with only one more step to go!
As far as configuring fingerprints, the UPEK Eikon Digital Manager allows two options -- one to store the fingerprint data on the device itself, or the option of encrypting it to your computer's hard drive. The Eikon has a storage capacity of 21 fingerprints.
During the setup process, the user has the option to choose to add a backup password in case the device malfunctions and needs to access the data.
I had to admit, first use of UPEK's Eikon Digital Privacy manager was pretty hard. It took me a while to get used to how the scanning goes -- because it keeps getting bad scans of my finger (It's not like I haven't used a fingerprint reader before...!) Anyway, there's a reason the tutorial was implemented; to allow the user to obtain more practice for the real scanning to complete.
Now the real scanning begins. You can register each of your fingers, while the bottom shows how much memory is left on the fingerprint reader itself if you are storing the profile to the fingerprint reader.
Here's a word of advice: Always use the fingerprint reader at the same angle as you would have registered your finger. The reason behind this is because I found out that any slight differences in angle would cause the reader to be unable to recognize the fingerprint. The user must control the starting point precisely (There's a reason why it's marked with an array of blue dots on the reader itself), scanning speed, finger pressure as you move over the lens, when to lift the finger off, as well as the angle of scanning in relative to the finger. For people with relatively sweaty hands, don't use the Eikon Digital Privacy Manager -- your fingers can be slightly wet and it will have some serious trouble recognizing your fingerprint. The learning curve is quite high; and even then finger recognition has a lot of room for improvement.
In general, it takes a lot of practice and it really depends what kind of finger you have. Personally, I cannot get extremely reliable scans all the time, whereas with the DigitalPersona U.are.U 4000B 95% of the scans were correctly recognized. On the positive side, the chances of it mis-recognizing a fingerprint as an authorized one will decrease.
With daily practice, the correct reading rate will improve. In fact, I am starting to get the hang of it -- as long as my fingers are not sweaty. Once you get the hang of it, it is recommended to re-register the fingers.
The Biomenu. At any time, you can swipe your finger over the reader to display the Biomenu. The user can scroll up and down the Biomenu my moving in the corresponding direction over the sensor, or tap the sensor to click (You can use your mouse as well). To register a fingerprint to a website login, simply enter your username and password in the fields. Roll finger over sensor to display the Biomenu and click 'Register'. Simple and easy!
This is given that, you have the right modules installed and it will not work with all software (Such as STEAM, Valve's content distribution platform). Mine works flawlessly with Internet Explorer, Firefox, as well as Windows dialog boxes (Including Windows login).
In Windows Vista, nothing is modified in terms of logon screen. The UPEK software simply adds an alternate logon credential, so the user may choose to login using his or her fingerprint(s). It also works with UAC administrator prompts -- so you do not have to enter your password all the time.
Speaking of its function in Windows, data encryption functions are included out of the box and allow you to encrypt files to an archive. Decryption can be done by a fingerprint swipe, of course!
In addition to that, individual fingers can be assigned to certain programs for quick program switching. Fingers of different users can also be utilized for fast user switching.
A balloon tip will appear if the current login dialog box is compatible with the UPEK software. By default, it does not automatically submit the form; but you can configure this individually for each logon.
One of the most prominent things I noticed during fingerprint swipes during logon is the screen border color flashing when the fingerprint is being recognized. This can be pretty annoying at times during usage.
A similar balloon tip will appear to remind you that a fingerprint logon profile is stored for that particular login screen. The user does have the option to check "Do not show this again" though, which is always nice.
In general, the UPEK Eikon Digital Privacy manager is a very interesting product. On the physical hardware side, the design is almost perfect -- from the color scheme to its base grip. Software is well implemented with convenient features, such as automatic module downloading for ease of use and compatibility. There are things to work out though. More widespread compatibility with more programs would be nice, or an option for the user to easily 'tell' the program which is the username field, the password field, and to simulate keyboard strokes such as 'Enter' like what's offered with the DigitalPersona 4000B. Also, we would like to see improvements made to the fingerprint reading lens and how it works with the software -- just make it recognize fingerprints in a more reliable fashion, at various angles and pressure, as well as removing problems with sweaty fingers (Hey, it's summer soon already, it gets quite warm here). Once you get used to it, however, fingerprint reading can be quite a breeze. You'll just need to learn the 'personality' of this little gadget.
Special thanks to Steve over at UPEK for making this review possible.
APH Review Focus Summary:
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
6/10 means A product with its advantages, but drawbacks should not be ignored before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 6.8/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
UPEK's Eikon Digital Privacy Manager is a fingerprint reader with design and aesthetics in mind. However, finger recognition can be improved -- especially when summer rolls around, sweaty hands aren't uncommon.