Fingerprint scanners may seem the ultimate in identification technology, but tricking them is actually not all that hard. Now, scanning the pattern of veins on the back of the hand promises a more reliable system.
Vein recognition is already used in South Korea and Japan to control access to secure rooms in hospitals, factories, and office buildings. System manufacturers say each person has a unique vein pattern, which can be captured by infrared cameras. The technology has been more widely accepted than fingerprinting in Asia mainly for cultural reasons, says Michelle Shen of ePolymath Consulting in Toronto. “In Japan, they are very concerned about hygiene. They’re reluctant with fingerprinting because they have to touch the sensor.” With vein recognition, users merely hold their hands up to a scanner.
A second generation of the technology is coming to North America. In 2003, Seoul, South Korea-based Techsphere, one of the first and largest vein recognition companies, signed a deal authorizing Toronto-based Identica to distribute its products in North America. Identica recently sold seven units to the Toronto and Ottawa airports to control ground crew admittance through doors. “Their hands aren’t always clean, and that would give false readings all the time with fingerprinting,” says Edward Foster, president and chief operating officer of Opus Canada, a flight services provider to the Toronto airport.
Vein recognition is so new to North America that there hasn’t yet been much independent testing of the technology, leading to skepticism from some experts. The adequacy of the approach has yet to be established through third-party testing, says Larry Hornak, director of the Center for Identification Technology Research at West Virginia University. But with more testing, perhaps more people will be checking their veins at the door.
Geoffrey Hinton tells us why he’s now scared of the tech he helped build
“I have suddenly switched my views on whether these things are going to be more intelligent than us.”
ChatGPT is going to change education, not destroy it
The narrative around cheating students doesn’t tell the whole story. Meet the teachers who think generative AI could actually make learning better.
Meet the people who use Notion to plan their whole lives
The workplace tool’s appeal extends far beyond organizing work projects. Many users find it’s just as useful for managing their free time.
Learning to code isn’t enough
Historically, learn-to-code efforts have provided opportunities for the few, but new efforts are aiming to be inclusive.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.