BY ANDREW MOORE
Silicon Hills News Reporter
It’s the first week of March — and that means the latest meeting of SA New Tech! Want your company to have biometric face and fingerprint scanners just like in spy movies? FaceKey can do just that. Plus, Cloud Options shows how cloud computing space can be sold in a futures market like any other commodity.
Cloud Options (aka Strategic Blue)
Cloud Options is a cloud brokering company founded by CEO James Mitchell Ph.D. It is also one of the 12 startups currently going through the TechStars Cloud program at Geekdom.
The company serves as a middleman between big cloud computing companies, like Rackspace Hosting, and clients that need more flexible, or cheaper, cloud options that the big companies can’t provide.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could get reliable costs for your particular project that starts on a particular date and runs for a particular duration,” says Mitchell. “And wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to prepay for that.”
When dealing with a major cloud computing provider such as Rackspace Hosting or Amazon, customers have to commit to long term services. A business that only needs four months of cloud hosting, or only two months but at a very high volume, is forced to pay for more time than they need. Furthermore, that business is forced to use a credit card – a required part of signing up for the services.
Cloud Options allows users to “book” shorter or more irregular stays on big cloud company services at a lower price than those companies offer. The companies get a simple invoice from Cloud Options instead of having to use a credit card for payment. Invoices are sent out at the end of each month of scheduled cloud usage, and the months don’t even have to be back-to-back. Using Cloud Options, a business could book two months in the summer and one month in the fall if they wanted to.
Cloud Options pulls this off by first buying a year of cloud computing space from a major company at a substantially discounted price – which the company agrees to because it provides income security and grants them access to more customers using their services.
“Cloud providers love Cloud Options because we are a valuable service for customers who are frustrated by limited billing choice,” says Mitchell.
Cloud Options then sells parts of that space to cloud users at a somewhat lesser discount – which grants Cloud Options a profit. By paying Cloud Options, users not only get a small discount but can now book cloud computing space on a much more flexible schedule. If a user overstays their contract with Cloud Options, they can continue to use cloud services but will now have to pay the provider directly at full price.
Cloud Options offers additional advantages as well. Cloud Options has already paid for its cloud computing space in advance, which means it can offer a user certainty that the discounted price offered will not fluctuate in the future. The company can even accommodate users in other countries that wish to pay in non-U.S. currency.
Cloud Options was funded by Morgan Stanley for 14 months before the bank had to break connection because of regulations. T-Systems Managing Director Sam Kingston is currently an investor in the company and will eventually be the Chief Operating Officer.
FaceKey was founded by Yevgeny B. Levitov Ph.D. – a former soviet scientist who immigrated to the U.S. in 1991. The company has been working on biometric recognition solutions for ten years and has created a small face and fingerprint recognition device similar to what is seen in movies. In fact, FaceKey’s technology was in the film “Man on a Ledge”. It is also utilized at Geekdom of San Antonio. FaceKey matches a user’s face to two different images – one in regular light and one in infrared light. This allows the device to see its user in a wide range of lighting conditions.
Levitov claims there are many advantages to using a biometric system for building access instead of just cards.
“This card can be used by me or by you – by anybody else,” said Levitov.
Levitov says cards can be exchanged, broken, or lost just like any “key” device. Cards also carry an additional cost because one must be given to every employee.
There are more interesting security risks as well. Levitov showed the audience a small handheld device which he bought from China for $19.99. The device looked like a gadget from a Jason Bourn film.
“This is card duplicator. It is very smart device. It can duplicate your card even if it is in your pocket,” said Levitov. “The problem is that this device copies the information on the card even with (an) encryption. That’s why there is no security.”
Levitov says the technology is especially useful in emergency situations.
“If you have for example some disaster in the building like fire, it’s very difficult to find out what has happened and who has not survived – who is missing. Our system can – in real time – help you to find who is missing.”
Other examples of where biometrics can be helpful include the practice of “buddy punching” — A situation where a friend will punch their buddy’s time card after work so he can leave early. A biometric device would prevent this from occurring.
FaceKey can install a fingerprint system for $1,000 or a fingerprint and face recognition system, similar to the one at Geekdom, for $2,500. While this price is much higher than the core components of card systems, which are around $300, Levitov says that card systems require a complicated and expensive network of wiring between card reading panels which is hidden in a card system’s price. FaceKey, he says, can be integrated with a building’s existing computer network which results in a much cheaper installation cost verses a card reader. The device can even function if its network goes down, utilizing a built in database of biometric data.
FaceKey is currently talking to several companies working for the Department of Homeland Security to see if its technology can be utilized in that area.