A device to deter pickpockets stealing from handbags is being hailed as the next "must-have" fashion accessory for street-wise women.
The fingerprint scanner has been designed to fit any handbag
It has been invented by 23-year-old design graduate Louise Wilson, from Crowborough, East Sussex.
The fingerprint scanner fits any handbag and stores pre-set fingerprints, allowing only the "registered owner" to open it.
If they are recognised, an indicator flashes green, and a latch is unlocked.
The scanner is around 5cm long, and is similar to those used on door entry security systems.
It works through a small battery-powered device.
A prototype of the Anti-Theft Handbag has been produced by Ms Wilson, who said she had been the victim of pickpockets in the past.
"I had heard about biometric technology and wanted to apply it to something used in everyday life," said the graduate in industrial design at Brunel University.
"People are fascinated by the bag
'Practical and stylish'
"They think it's great that it's unique to the user, and the fact it's discreet," she said.
Ms Wilson estimates it would cost £60 or less to fit the device to a handbag, and is keen to develop the idea further with a manufacturer.
The Anti-Theft Handbag won an AOL Broadband Innovator Award last week when it went on show at Brunel University.
Paul Turnock, design director at Brunel's department of design, described it as practical and stylish.
"With further development, this great design could be the next 'must-have' fashion accessory for street-wise women everywhere," he said.