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Bank whips out palm-recognition kit - and a severed hand won't work

New payment system to tackle identity fraud

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Italian banking group UniCredit has developed a commercial biometric payment system based on Fujitsu PalmSecure palm vein reader technology.

UniCredit selected palm vein reader technology instead of more widely touted biometric technologies, such as fingerprint readers and retina scanners, to underpin a prototype mobile payment mechanism, dubbed Papillon. Fujitsu provided a sensor which captures the payer’s unique vein pattern data as well as software development technology that allowed UniCredit to independently develop its bespoke Papillon application.

Japan's Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank began offering its customers the option of using ATM services without the need for a cash card or passbook using the same type of palm-scanning biometric technology from Fujitsu last year.

Fujitsu reckons the tech has applications across a range of industries including aviation (as a potential replacement for boarding cards), entertainment (access control for gyms) and potentially anti-theft features in cars as well as banking. The IT giant used the opening of the CeBit trade fair in Hanover, Germany on Tuesday to announce the general availability of authentication products based on its PalmSecure technology.

Dr Joseph Reger, chief technology officer at Fujitsu Technology Solutions, commented: “PalmSecure is a proof point of Fujitsu’s increasing focus on end-to-end technology solutions designed to solve real-world problems, and is already tried, tested and proven to combat identity fraud."

Fujitsu PalmSecure involves a contactless scan of the palm vein pattern of a user’s hand to confirm their identity. The pattern of oxygen-depleted veins in the palm of hands can be used to develop biometrics that have a a false acceptance rate of less than 0.00008 per cent and a false rejection rate of only 0.01 per cent, according to research by Fujitsu. The figures suggest that the system would mistake someone's vein pattern for those of another enrolled person in only one in 1.25 million cases and fail to match up the vein print of a user with his or her previously recorded characteristics in only one in 10,000 cases, according to Fujitsu.

Palm vein reader technology is both reliable and virtually impossible to forge, according to Fujitsu. Users can be authenticated in seconds, simply by holding their hand over a sensor.

Live palms - dismembered hands won't do

The PalmSecure Palm Vein Unit emits near-infrared rays that are absorbed by deoxidised haemoglobin present in blood flowing through the patient's palm veins. A proprietary algorithm takes this image, converts it into a digitised biometric template, and then matches it against a database of pre-registered templates. Providing a perfect match is found, identity is verified.

The non-intrusive and contact-less reader device prevent the spread of germs and diseases, which are often transmitted by hand.

Vein pattern matching is not a new biometric technology but its low false positives, false negatives and resistance to forging have drawn favourable commentaries from independent sections of the security community, such as encryption guru Bruce Schneier (here).

Pictures of Fujitsu's PalmSecure technology in action and more on the application of the technology in UniCredit Papillon can be found in a blog post by Fujitsu here.

At CeBIT, Fujitsu is showcasing a range of different iterations including a prototype of a tablet with a built-in scanner, an access control device, a USB pluggable device and a micro-size device. ®

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