Finger veins used in latest biometric ID technology

Biometric identification, used extensively for access to construction sites and equipment, could be stepping up a gear.

A London-based technology firm has come up with a new means of identifying individuals by scanning the veins in their fingertips. What’s more, the method can be used to pay for items.

In a world first, customers at the Costcutter store, at Brunel University in London, can now pay for groceries using their unique vein pattern to identify themselves.

The firm behind the technology, Sthaler, says it is in “serious talks” with other major UK supermarkets to adopt hi-tech finger vein scanners at pay points across thousands of stores.

It works by using infrared to scan people’s finger veins and then links this unique biometric map to their bank cards.

Customers’ bank details are then stored with payment provider Worldpay, in the same way you can store your card details when shopping online. Shoppers can then turn up to the supermarket with nothing on them but their own hands and make payments in just three seconds.

It comes as previous studies have found fingerprint recognition, used widely on mobile phones, is vulnerable to being hacked and can be copied even from finger smears left on phone screens.

But Sthaler claims vein technology is the most secure biometric identification method as it cannot be copied or stolen.

Sthaler said dozens of students were already using the system and it expected 3,000 students out of 13,000 to have signed up by November.

Finger print scanning is already used widely by major contracting firms around the country.

Vein scanners are also to access high-security UK police buildings and authorising internal trading at at least one major British investment bank.

The technology requires the person to be alive, meaning in the unlikely event a criminal hacks off someone’s finger, it would not work. Sthaler says it takes just one minute to sign up to the system initially and, after that, it takes just seconds to place your finger in a scanner each time you reach the supermarket checkout.

Simon Binns, commercial director of Sthaler, told The Daily Telegraph: “This makes payments so much easier for customers.

“They don’t need to carry cash or cards. They don’t need to remember a pin number. You just bring yourself. This is the safest form of biometrics. There are no known incidences where this security has been breached.

“When you put your finger in the scanner it checks you are alive, it checks for a pulse, it checks for haemoglobin. Your vein pattern is secure because it is kept on a database in an encrypted form, as binary numbers. No card details are stored with the retailer or ourselves, it is held with Worldpay, in the same way it is when you buy online.”

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