Sunday, February 03, 2008

Biometrics: Finger vein scanners being deployed

The use of various biometric technologies to identify individuals as a routine matter of daily life has been slow to catch on, thus far at least. Perhaps it is because there is insufficient demand, perhaps it costs too much (relative to the perceived benefits), or perhaps there are drawbacks with the technologies that have been fielded to implement it to this point.

As far as industry addressing possible technology drawbacks of the equipment, the Guardian (UK, left-wing newspaper) reports that Hitachi has started fielding a new type of biometric technology - finger vein scanners. Finger vein scanners differ from finger print scanners in that they are reportedly more difficult to fool. The principle of operation in similar to the blood oxygenation sensors commonly used in medical settings - i.e. shining a light onto (into) the skin of the finger which is absorbed by the hemoglobin in the capillaries, thereby allowing the imaging sensor to "take a picture" of the capillary pattern. These patterns are reportedly unique to an individual, just like finger prints. Of course, it all depends in how you implement the matching algorithm, but that is another issue - for more, see the Journal of Forensic Identification paper on errors in fingerprint examination.

Whether the scanners address the cost issue I mentioned above remains to be seen. For more details, including one disturbinging case of how a gang got around a finger print scanner to steal an automobile, you can check out the Guardian article.

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