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Japanese banks deploy biometric palm scanners

Vein pattern recognition, no less

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Japanese banks are turning to a new biometric identification system, based on the unique nature of the patterns of veins in our palms.

Fujitsu says it has sold the vein pattern recognition technology to two banks already, one of which has implemented the system already, according to IDG News reports.

The system requires three snapshots of the palm, taken in near infrared light. In the image produced, the veins show up as dark patterns. This data forms the basis of the security system: it can be loaded onto a smart cash card and used at cash machines to identify the user of the card.

The scan to identify the user takes a couple of seconds, Fujitsu says, and involves the cardholder putting their wrist into a cradle which holds the palm in the right position to be scanned.

Kazuaki Ishida, a spokesman for Fujitsu, said that the technology would help combat shoulder surfing: "It's quite easy for criminals to watch people input their numbers, steal their cards, and withdraw money. Also the number of fake cards is increasing. This system is much more secure."

Fujitsu claims the palm scanning technology is a good balance of security and convenience. He pointed out that most people don't want to submit to retinal scans every time they withdraw cash from an ATM. Fingerprint scanners were also considered, but market research found that women responded badly to the hygiene implications of sharing the print recognition pad with so many other people.

Suruga Bank has already installed the system and it has been in operation since June this year. Meanwhile, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi plans to deploy the system by October. Fujitsu says it is speaking to several other "megabanks", but would reveal any more details. ®

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