London Drugs swaps passwords for fingerprints

London Drugs plans to give its employees one less password to remember and improve customer service by implementing a fingerprint authentication solution for its IT network over the next year.

With over 7,000 employees working

in 62 stores across Western Canada, Richmond, B.C.-based London Drugs is a retail, pharmacy and home electronics store. Nick Curalli, the company’s general manager of information technology, said the new system will let everyone from the store manager to the stock clerk log into the network with a touch of their finger, and may eventually include a point of sale system.

“We want our staff to focus on the customer and not on remembering multiple usernames and passwords,” said Curalli. “We’re really focused on being as efficient as possible so we can serve our customers in the best possible way.”

Passwords often change, as they need to be kept fresh for security reasons, and employees are already usually burdened with passwords for everything from home e-mail to their bank PIN code.

When London Drugs went looking for a solution to ease that burden, Curalli said they considered a number of different technologies before settling on an enterprise solution from Redwood City, Calif.-based DigitalPersona Inc. Curalli said they wanted something efficient that worked with their existing infrastructure, and that allowed their employees to concentrate less on authentication and more on customers, while still maintaining security.

“It will sound a bit funny but it’s really important; (we selected DigitalPersona because) it works,” said Curalli. “If you’re putting in a solution to be efficient and the solution doesn’t work, you’ve done yourself a disservice.”

He added it also fits well into their existing IT infrastructure, and they didn’t have to buy a lot of new equipment to make it work.

“We spend whatever is necessary on IT, but not more than is necessary,” said Curalli.

London Drugs is currently running a pilot project, testing the DigitalPersona solution at both their head office and in a lab that simulates a store environment to work out any issues before rolling it out to the stores. The timeline is flexible, but Curalli said they plan to begin deployment by the end of the year.

DigitalPersona spokesperson Karoline McLaughlin said their solution uses a proprietary recognition technology that uses a fingerprint to identify the user and authenticate them to access any kind of application, network or services that an administrator is allowing them to access.

London Drugs will use a small USB device the size of a finger that ties directly into the PC, and DigitalPersona also has integrated keyboards with the fingerprint scanner built right in.

On the software side, the solution connects into Microsoft Active Directory to link the biometric information with existing usernames and passwords, and allows IT managers to remotely add users and manage the network without having to visit each location.

“You can literally take it out of the package and set it up easily. It’s very seamless,” said McLaughlin. “The software walks them through what they need to do, saves the information and they’re done.”

McLaughlin said retail is starting to become a pretty prominent area for DigitalPersona, and they’re working with pharmacies, grocery stores and restaurants, including the White Castle hamburger chain in the U.S.

She said users are turning to a biometric solution for a number of reasons: often ease of use, as was the case with London Drugs, as well as increasing security.

Contact: [email protected]

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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