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THIS PEN CERTIFIES YOUR JOHN HANCOCK

THE BIGGEST DRAG ON INTERNET commerce is security--there's no easy way, for example, to protect a credit-card number once it is punched into the Net. To help solve the security problem, LCI Computer Group in the Netherlands and Inter-University Micro Electronics Center in Belgium have jointly developed the SMARTpen. It looks like an ordinary pen, but inside, a proc-essor, battery, and transmitter can authenticate signatures.

The SMARTpen measures angle and acceleration as it crosses paper and then transmits the information in code by radio signal to a host computer. When the user signs a piece of paper, the signature is compared with the original. Forgeries are almost impossible. ''Since everybody has their own unique signature, you don't have to trust a credit card anymore,'' says Sam Asseer, LCI's CEO. ''Even if someone copies another's signature, he would be writing at a different speed, so the computer would tell the difference.''

The SMARTpen now costs around $400, but Asseer predicts the price could fall to $40 once it goes into mass production. LCI is negotiating for the pen to be used for identification at U.S. government installations and with a consumer electronics company to license the product.

EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST
William Echikson


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Updated Dec. 11, 1997 by bwwebmaster
Copyright 1997, Bloomberg L.P.
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