It’s probably happened to you at least once: you’re in line after the longest grocery trip of your life to discover you didn’t bring your wallet. That kind of awkward moment could soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a current study at Brunel University in London.
The university is testing a biometric payment system that reads a customer’s finger veins to complete a purchase. A one-of-a-kind key is created from the reading, allowing customers to leave with their purchases without ever having swiped or inserted a card.
The technology was created by Hitachi and has been licensed for retail by Sthaler, a biometric payments company. Nick Dryden, chief executive of Sthaler, said the payment technology will get the attention of millennials.
“Today’s millennial generation now expects a higher level of ease, security and efficiency from the way that we pay,” Dryden said to BBC News.
Larger English retailers are already looking forward to the study’s results, eager to implement the technology if it is determined to be successful. The Fingopay, as it’s called, is not the first of its kind.
Barclays Bank introduced similar technology from Hitachi in 2014 for its corporate customers, and the Fingopay technology was also trialed at a bar in Camden, a borough of London.
What’s the Catch?
While the Fingopay system is innovative, it’s not perfect.
“There have been fingerprint biometric systems in the past that have been easily tricked,” said Graham Cluely, a security consultant. “The problem with biometrics is that you can’t change it, so if someone gets hold of your information and reproduces it, what are you going to do? You can’t change your finger.”
The Fingopay allows users to connect their fingerprint to their credit or debit card, allowing the actual card to be absent from the transaction. 2,000 customers signed up for the technology while it was trialed at the bar in Camden.
“I do wonder why there is such an urgent push to use this technology rather than the traditional methods of identifying yourself,” Cluely said.
The technology does have vulnerabilities, but since it uses vein patterns, it is thought to be more secure than other technologies. Alan Woodward, a professor of Computer Science at the University of Surrey, said the technology is harder to trick.
“This is a good thing to do,” Woodward said. “With this system, blood needs to be flowing through the veins so you can prove it is a real, live person using it, which is much harder to spoof.”