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Technology

Biometrics to keep handbags safe

By Julie Clothier for CNN

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A tiny fingerprint-scanner opens the handbag only when it gets a match.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- It might sound like something straight out of a sci-fi movie but pickpockets should beware of a new invention that may put them out of business.

Design graduate Louise Wilson, frustrated after having her own handbag pick pocketed, has used biometrics technology to give handbags the type of security you would expect to surround the Crown Jewels.

The 23-year-old is currently in talks with manufacturers about producing a line of handbags that feature the security device. It could be on shop shelves within 18 months.

Ms Wilson's anti-theft handbag works through a rechargeable battery-powered biometric reader device, which stores fingerprint details of the bag's "registered owner."

The device, which fits inside the lining of a handbag, won't unlock the bag until a fingerprint that it recognizes is touched over a discreet 5cm scanner, using technology similar to that on door security entry systems. Once a match has been made, a sensor flashes green and the bag opens.

Ms Wilson, who graduated from London's Brunel University in industrial design earlier this year, said women often carried "their whole lives" in their handbag and losing all or some of the contents could be devastating.

"I had heard about biometric technology and wanted to apply it to something used in everyday life," she says.

"Being pick pocketed or having your handbag stolen is such a frustrating thing. It's so easy for opportunists to help themselves, especially in noisy, crowded public situations like shopping in a busy street or using public transport."

A recent survey revealed that more than two million British holidaymakers have had their handbag or wallet stolen while traveling abroad. Most of the thefts happened in a public place. Spain was the worst country for crime, followed by France and the Netherlands, according to the survey of 1,004 adults.

Paul Turnock, design director at Brunel University's department of design, said Ms Wilson's design had the potential to become the next must-have fashion accessory and could significantly reduce this type of crime.

The British Government wants biometric information to be included in all new passports issued from 2006, and driving licenses soon after.

Biometrics involves the use of an automated system to verify the identity of someone through physiological or behavioral characteristics, including fingerprint readers, iris scanners and facial recognition devices.


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