Hitachi finger vein system allows for "duress digit" designation

Published 2 May 2006

Hitachi offers a finger vein architecture biometric device with a twist: It allows users to designate one finger as a duress digit: If a customer is forced at a gun point to go to the bank or to an ATM, he may use the duress finger to alert the authorities

Japanese electronics giant Hitachi will announce a deal with a European banking group to test new biometric scanners. The scanners will read the architecture of veins in users’ fingers. Hitachi claims that the false acceptance for its finger vein-based biometric ID system will be as low as 0.0001 percent, with a verification time of less than half a second. Unlike fingerprint ID, vein authentication is not affected by damage to the surface of the hand. It is also harder to copy than ID based on a person’s voice or facial features.

Finger vein authentication uses infra-red light from a special scanner to capture the unique pattern of the finger for use as a biometric key. Every finger has a unique vein pattern, with those on the same hand being identifiable and distinct from each other. This means that each user can register a number of different fingers with the system. This provides back-up in the event of a finger being damaged.

This characteristic of vein architecture allows Hitachi to enhance its system with a unique feature: The scanner the company developed will allow users to choose one finger as a “duress digit” to alert the bank if they are being forced to draw cash from automatic tellers against their will. The authentication system detects the situation and raises the appropriate alarm.

Hitachi hopes its new finger vein scanners will prove more popular than two other methods European banks have been testing. European bank customers have reacted badly to trials using iris eye scanners for ATM identification. Many customers instinctively feel the eye is too vulnerable for this type of invasive search to be used regularly. Fingerprint scans have also proved to be unpopular in some European markets. Fingerprints are routinely used by local authorities to issue identity cards, but studies show that consumers associate fingerprinting with police detection and are emotionally reluctant to submit their fingerprints when innocent of any crime.