Fingerprint purchasing technology ensures buyer has a pulse
The Associated Press
Posted: Feb 22, 2013 10:31 AM ET
Last Updated: Feb 22, 2013 2:20 PM ET
Futurists have long proclaimed the coming of a cashless society, where dollar bills and plastic cards are replaced by fingerprint and retina scanners smart enough to distinguish a living, breathing account holder from an identity thief.
What they probably didn't see coming was that one such technology would make its debut not in Silicon Valley or MIT but at a small state college in remote western South Dakota, 40 kilometres from Mount Rushmore.
Two shops on the School of Mines and Technology campus are performing one of the world's first experiments in Biocryptology — a mix of biometrics (using physical traits for identification) and cryptology (the study of encoding private information). Students at the Rapid City school can buy a bag of potato chips with a machine that non-intrusively detects their hemoglobin to make sure the transaction is legitimate.
Researchers figure their technology would provide a critical safeguard against a morbid scenario sometimes found in spy movies in which a thief removes someone else's finger to fool the scanner.
On a recent Friday, mechanical engineering major Bernard Keeler handed a Red Bull to a cashier in the Miner's Shack campus shop, typed his birthdate into a pay pad and swiped his finger. Within seconds, the machine had identified his print and checked that blood was pulsing beneath it, allowing him to make the buy. Afterward, Keeler proudly showed off the receipt he was sent via email on his smartphone.
Tests for a pulse
Fingerprint technology isn't new, nor is the general concept of using biometrics as a way to pay for goods. But it's the extra layer of protection — that deeper check to ensure the finger has a pulse — that researchers say sets this technology apart from already-existing digital fingerprint scans, which are used mostly for criminal background checks.
Al Maas, president of Nexus USA — a subsidiary of Spanish-based Hanscan Indentity Management, which patented the technology — acknowledged South Dakota might seem an unlikely locale to test it, but to him, it was a perfect fit.
"I said, if it flies here in the conservative Midwest, it's going to go anywhere," Maas said.
Maas grew up near Madison, S.D., and wanted his home state to be the technology's guinea pig. He convinced Hanscan owner Klaas Zwart that the 2,400-student Mines campus should be used as the starter location.
The students all major in mechanical engineering or hard sciences, which means they're naturally technologically inclined, said Joseph Wright, the school's associate vice president for research-economic development.
"South Dakota is a place where people take risks. We're very entrepreneurial," Wright said.
After Maas and Zwart introduced the idea to students this winter, about 50 stepped forward to take part in the pilot.
"I really wanted to be part of what's new and see if I could help improve what they already have," said Phillip Clemen, 19, a mechanical engineering student.
'Any security measure can be defeated; it's a question of making it harder.'—Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst
Robert Siciliano, a security expert with McAfee, Inc., minimized potential privacy concerns.
"We are hell bent on privacy issues here in the U.S. We get all up in arms when someone talks about scanning us or recording our information, but then we'll throw up everything about us on Facebook and give up all of our personal information for 10 per cent off at a shoe store for instant credit," he said.
Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said fingerprint technology on its own raises security issues, but he called "liveness detection" a step in the right direction.
"Any security measure can be defeated; it's a question of making it harder," he said.
The key to keeping biometric identification from becoming Big Brother-like is to make it voluntary and ensure that the information scanned is used exactly as promised, Stanley said.
Brian Wiles, a Miles mechanical engineering major, said it's exciting to be beta testing technology that could soon be worldwide.
"There was some hesitation, but the fact that it's the first in the world — that's the whole point of this school," said Wiles, 22. "We're innovators."
Top News Headlines
- Harper to address Tory caucus amid Senate scandal
- Conservatives gathered Monday night to mourn the passing of a key architect in their rise to power — and to brace for the toughest test Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has faced since taking office on a promise to clean up politics in the national capital. more »
- Keith Boag: Have you heard about the murderous abortion doctor?
- The gruesome trial and murder conviction of Philadelphia abortion provider Dr. Kermit Gosnell is unlikely to change American abortion law, Keith Boag writes. But it has U.S. journalists questioning their priorities and how they cover such a sensitive issue. more »
- Fearful Oklahoma families search for children
- The parents and guardians stood in the muddy grass outside a suburban Oklahoma City church, listening intently as someone with a bullhorn called out the names of children who were being dropped off — survivors of Monday's deadly tornado. more »
- Baseball fuels dreams, desperation in Dominican Republic
- The Toronto Blue Jays have a number of stars from the Dominican Republic, but in the shadow of these successful players is an equally important story about hope and poverty, and a country desperately struggling to balance the two. more »
Latest Business Headlines
- What kind of home can $380,588 buy?
- The national average price for a home rose to $380,588 in April 2013, an increase of 1.3 per cent from the previous year. But what can a house hunter expect to find for that price? more »
- Russell 2000 small-company index surpasses 1,000
- The Russell 2000, an index of small-company stocks, rose above 1,000 for the first time. The index is outpacing the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 index this year. more »
- Yahoo buys Tumblr blogging site for $1.1B
- Yahoo is buying online blogging forum Tumblr for $1.1 billion as CEO Marissa Mayer tries to rejuvenate an internet icon that had fallen behind the times. more »
- Xbox launch Tuesday highly anticipated
- Microsoft's next-generation Xbox expected to be revealed Tuesday, and anticipation for the entertainment console's latest evolution is running high. more »
Lang & O'Leary Exchange
The data on this site is informational only and may be delayed; it is not intended as trading or investment advice and you should not rely on it as such.
- Oklahoma tornado rescue crews work through night
- 51 dead after tornado levels Oklahoma suburbs
- Edmonton driver, 62, charged in boy's patio death
- Unknown remains found on Dellen Millard's farm
- Will alleged Rob Ford video overshadow Toronto casino debate?
- Netflix and the rise of binge TV watching
- Ray Manzarek of The Doors dies at 74
- B.C. man feared kidnapped in Mexico
- Canadian on EI shut out amid foreign worker influx