Forget fingerprinting. Companies in Europe have begun to roll out an advanced biometric system from Japan that identifies people from the unique patterns of veins inside their fingers.
Finger vein authentication, introduced widely by Japanese banks in the last two years, is believed to be the fastest and most secure biometric method. Developed by Hitachi, it verifies a person's identity based on the lattice work of blood vessels under the skin.
Easydentic Group, a European leader in the biometric industry based in France, has announced that it will be using Hitachi's finger vein security in a range of door access systems for the U.K. and European markets.
In Japan, thousands of cash machines are operated by finger vein technology. Hitachi announced today that it will introduce 20,000 finger vein authentication systems at shops and kiosks belonging to two Japanese companies, which will use the devices to protect the privacy of customer information by requiring storeworkers to authenticate themselves before accessing the customer database.
The pattern of blood vessels is captured by transmitting near-infrared light at different angles through the finger, usually the middle finger. This can be done in a small instrument attached to a wall or as part of an ATM machine. The light is partially absorbed by hemoglobin in the veins and the pattern is captured by a camera as a unique 3-D finger vein profile, which is turned into a simple digital code which is then matched with a pre-registered profile to verify an individual's identity. Even twins are said to have different finger vein patterns.
Hitachi claims that because the veins are inside the body, invisible to the eye, it is extremely difficult to forge and impossible to manipulate. While fingerprints can be "lifted" and retinas scanned without an individual realizing it, it is extremely unlikely that people's finger vein profiles can be taken without them being aware of it, the company said.