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Bloody Biometrics!

Forget your fingerprint or iris - now your veins can get you into the building

5:34 PM -- If you get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about a machine scanning your iris when you enter a secure location, building, or even access a computer system, raise your hand and take a long look at the veins there: An emerging biometric scanning technology uses the vascular pattern on the back of your hand to identify you.

Now, this technology probably isn't coming to an office near you anytime soon. But it's increasingly being found in ports, airports, nuclear plants, water treatment facilities, banks, and police evidence rooms. It's considered as accurate as iris scanning, and less invasive -- assuming you don't mind an infrared camera capturing images of the veins, arteries, and capillaries on the back of your hand.

I don't know about you, but I never thought about my hands having a unique vascular pattern, but apparently we all have different ones -- even identical twins. And unlike fingerprint scanners, which can get contaminated in more ways than one (ew), vascular pattern recognition systems are inherently more rugged and made to work outdoors in all kinds of weather and dirty hand conditions. "Our scanner can identify you in [one tenth] of a second," says Terry Wheeler, president of Identica Holdings, a pioneer in this next-generation biometrics authentication technology.

Wheeler says Identica's technology is used in physical security access control and time and attendance applications. "You can undeniably know who's at the front door," he says.

Users register their hands' vascular identities with the scanner. The templates are stored on smart cards or in a database. (In case you were wondering, a smart card would act as a part of a distributed database carried by the user, avoiding privacy concerns.)

Wheeler says the scanner captures the user's unique vein patterns, including telltale circles, angles, endpoints, and branches -- a process that the company has patented. And in a similar vein (ahem), there are also related biometrics that capture the unique configuration of the veins on the back of your finger and in your palm.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

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