Fujitsu unveils palm vein authentication to European market

Global technology business Fujitsu unveiled a new biometrically-operated authentication device earlier this week which identifies people by their individual palm vein structure.

Revealing the PalmSecure ID Match at its annual Fujitsu Forum event in Munich, Germany, the Japan-based vendor said the new technology will have multiple uses for businesses and consumers alike, protecting access, data and, ultimately, payments.

Fujitsu says the device, which combines palm vein technology with a smart card, brings a greater level of security to the authentication process than other biometrically-operated systems such as those led by a person's fingerprint or iris, and has the potential to evolve the payments process once banks buy into the concept.

In Spain, the vendor has placed the palm vein authentication into Fujitsu-manufactured La Caixa bank ATMs, but the technology can be added to machines that have been manufactured by other tech firms. It can also be used on PEDs, vending machines and other entry systems.

David Lowrence, retail industry consultant at Fujitsu, explained to Essential Retail how the new technology could be used within retailing.

"Retailers will look at this initially as entry system validation to secure areas, but as soon as we get the first UK banks to accept this – and they are talking to us at the moment – then that's when retailers will start to look at this very seriously for payment," he remarked.

"Apart from buying items, this could be used for identifying people when they go into a store and for picking up offers. Perhaps it could be used to pick up a click & collect order as an identification tool that doesn't require a customer to produce receipts or papers they would otherwise have printed out online."

Payment is currently one of the fastest-evolving areas of the retail technology industry, with the wide consumer adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets providing an opportunity for quicker and simpler 'on the go' transactions. Apple Pay and Zapp are two players that have made significant strides in recent months by adding retailers to their respective client and user lists.

The use of biometrics in retail and payments is also growing, with MasterCard and Zwipe announcing in October a fingerprint-authenticated contactless payment card. It is certainly an area of considerable innovation, and Lowrence suggested that it is going to be important for retailers and other organisations to serve the customer how they want to be served – and this will require them to offer multiple payment options.

He commented: "I see massive changes coming in consumer attitude, in terms of a growing acceptance that fingerprint and other biological identification will work.

"We are also seeing non-traditional forms of payment such as Barclays Pingit being used, as well as the growing use of PayPal and the ability for a customer to talk directly to their bank from their mobile device to sort out a bill. The retailer has to deal with the customer in the way the customer wants to be dealt with, if they don't they will lose them."

Palm vein technology does have form already, as it is used in financial transactions in Turkey and the fact it is touch-free makes it particularly attractive to environments where hygiene is important, such as hospitals and food-handling sites. It has gained traction in Fujitsu's home country, Japan, where it has a particular cultural fit.

Inevitably – as with all new technologies involving authentication and handling of customers' personal data – there is a privacy and data protection debate to be had with the use of biometrics.

Isabelle Moeller, CEO of the Biometrics Institute, which exists to research and promote the use of biometrics, explained to this publication earlier in 2014 that "it is essential that any implementation of biometrics first addresses potential privacy impacts".

The Fujitsu PalmSecure ID Match sees an individual's palm vein information stored on their own smart card, and not retailers' or banks' own systems. The two-stage process of swiping the card and then scanning a palm algorithm adds another layer of security to the process, according to Lowrence.

"It strengthens the UK regulations that say you have to hold this data safely or don't hold it at all," he added.

"More and more retailers don't want to hold that data at all so they are going through point to point encryption, keeping that information off their own systems and even off the PED. This is a way of not even putting it on there in the first place – retailers systems never get to see a customer's palm vein."

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