Hitachi finger vein scanner could secure large venues

A "walkthrough-stye" scanner would require a simple wave of the hand to open gates

Hitachi's finger vein authentication system could provide access to facilities such as sports stadiums.

Hitachi's finger vein authentication system could provide access to facilities such as sports stadiums.

Sports fans of the future might enter stadiums simply by waving a hand over a vein scanner if new technology from Hitachi is any guide.

Users could simply hold their fingers over a "walkthrough-style" scanner to gain entry to sports stadiums, convention centers or other large venues almost instantly, according to the Japanese conglomerate's research lab.

Since users would have to be registered beforehand, the biometric security system could prevent would-be thieves and unauthorized people from entering such facilities.

The scanner is able to confirm a person's identity by detecting finger vein patterns, which are unique to each person. It works regardless of the number of fingers used or their orientation above the scanner surface, allowing it to process about 70 users per minute.

That's about the same rate at which automatic gates in Tokyo subways and railways process commuters. Most people use stored-value smart cards that they wave over touchless scanners to enter the stations of the Japanese capital, which hosts some of the busiest rail hubs in the world.

Hitachi has built a prototype of the scanner attached to a gate, which opens when a user is recognized. Aside from stadiums and concert venues, the scanner could be used in train and subway gates in the future.

"In terms of biometric technology, finger veins are ideal because the information is inside the body and no trace of it is left outside, as with fingerprints," said a spokeswoman for Hitachi's Central Research Laboratory in Tokyo.

Unlike iris scanners used in some airports, Hitachi's finger scanner could be deployed as a compact, palm-sized unit and would not require people to stop and stand in place. The scanner itself could be smaller than similar ones that scan the palm of the hand, which Fujitsu has developed.

The finger scanner is still under development but could be ready for commercialization in two years, according to the lab.

Hitachi has been selling similar technology since 2002. For instance, its USB Finger Vein Biometric Authentication Unit, which is about the size of a mouse and features a false acceptance rate of 0.0001 percent, can replace passwords as a means to secure PCs, point-of-sale terminals and photocopiers.

Fujitsu said earlier this year that it may incorporate its palm scanners in smartphones as a security measure. It has supplied similar scanners to Japanese ATMs to prevent fraud.

Intel and McAfee, meanwhile, are pushing biometric technology as a replacement for passwords used to access email and online bank accounts.

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Tim Hornyak

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