Biometric Access Company: Speed and Efficiency for Every Transaction with Blackfin® Processor
The SecureTouch Advanced is the latest product in the Biometric Access Company's line of transaction processing terminals. The SecureTouch Advanced (STA) is a modular system built around a base unit that expands from a basic transaction terminal to include optional finger and barcode scanners, document scanners, facial cameras, printers and other peripherals, providing a custom solution for checkout, check cashing, age verification, controlled substance electronic logging and tracking, time and attendance and other transactions requiring identity confirmation. A single Blackfin processor powers the base unit and all of the peripherals.
Biometric Access Company in Round Rock TX was founded in 1996, designing its first products to secure computer and network system access using biometric means for identity verification. Growing from its roots in finger image scanning devices for personal computers, it has grown to cover a multitude of markets that require positive identification of individuals, from time and attendance stations, to authorized room access, to retail sales and check cashing applications. Many of these applications require customer and product information to complete the transaction, whether it is admittance to a health care facility or purchase of bar-coded packages and check acceptance at a grocery store.
Starting in 2000, Biometric Access started shipping transaction processing systems. The first model was squarely targeted toward payroll check cashing in retail grocery stores. It featured a finger scanner, keypad, magnetic stripe reader and display. It contained multiple printed circuit boards for keypad, Ethernet, graphics and display processing and a mainboard for image and control processing. A traditional DSP was used, rather than a conventional microprocessor, because image processing was a critical factor in the computing workload and ran much faster on a DSP architecture.
By 2003, the second version of the system was into production with a reduced number of boards. It did fulfill the 'modular' requirement, but reconfiguration was not yet a simple field process. Systems could, however be pre-configured for various applications from a set of standard modular components. This version also used a DSP processor to power the unit.
By 2006, it was clear that the goals of cost reduction, configuration in the field, low power (for line or battery operation) and improved computing performance could be a reality. It would require moving to a different embedded processor architecture, the Blackfin processor family from Analog Devices. The Blackfin family offered a wide variety of on-chip peripherals that would simplify design and enable seamless modularity, and reduce component count and PCB size. Blackfin also boasted a number of power saving modes to reduce battery drain and system power. Best of all, Blackfin was an impressive signal AND control processor. When the latest version of the SecureTouch Advanced was introduced in 2007, it met all of its design goals and delivered impressive performance, about twice the performance that was expected by comparing spec sheets with the DSP used in prior designs. This design provides an ideal solution that delivers field configurability in a low power, single board, networked solution that grows with the performance and feature demands of the application.
The base module consists of the system board, the 20 key keypad and 128x64 pixel (8 lines x 21 characters) graphical display, magnetic credit card reader, 3 SD card slots for memory expansion and non-volatile removable memory, 10/100Mb/s Ethernet port, 2 USB 2.0 host ports, a USB 2.0 OTG port, and 3 serial ports. The Blackfin processor has 32MB of SDRAM and 8 MB of FLASH RAM. All of the input and output devices are connected to the system by means of the Blackfin Parallel Peripheral Interface (PPI) which is a 16b, 65Mhz clocked parallel bus which provides sufficient bandwidth to operate the devices concurrently. The system uses the Ethernet link to connect to the server for network communication in support of efficient and effective data gathering, data aggregation and data distribution for transaction processing at the point of service.
The Ethernet connection is a 100Mb/s link, and the processor is fast enough to use all of this bandwidth, creating a very fast communication path from the terminal to the server. The server contains the finger image 'signatures' of valid system users for applications that require positive ID verification. When a user/customer scans his fingertip, a 'signature' template is created locally in the SecureTouch hardware and sent to the server to be compared with a stored master 'signature' template to verify identities.
In addition to the embedded Ethernet, seamless USB integration and multiple serial ports allow application specific expandability which was limited in previous platforms. The Blackfin platform has allowed the SecureTouch Advanced unprecedented expandability with the ability to add additional modules by taking advantage of the Blackfin's PPI interface.
The software development for this design was completed using the ADI VisualDSP toolset and is deployed on the VDK runtime environment. 90 to 95% of the code is written in C or C++ for easy development and maintenance. The Blackfin processing power is combined with BAC's Serenity platform and River architecture to create a very efficient and productive SecureTouch Advanced (STAm) system solution. The STAm offers unprecedented performance and a system architecture that provides an industry first in technical support capabilities for an infinite number of installations from a single seat located anywhere in the customer's enterprise.
The feature set and performance of the Blackfin processor allowed the STA implementation to use more robust image processing than earlier products, increasing accuracy and speed of transactions, and modularity that can be performed in the customer's location by a non-technical customer employee.
"The STA product is designed to provide a complete custom transaction solution with a wide choice of networked peripherals. The Blackfin processors provided the best platform for the product due to its combination of performance, peripherals and power. We are able to cut finger image extraction times in half, integrate Ethernet and USB seamlessly and take advantage of power-saving 'sleep' modes when the terminal is inactive," said Ron Smith, President and CEO of Biometric Access Company.
For more information, please visit Biometric Access Company.
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