Vein patterns prove highly accurate and popular for pioneer vascular developer Identica
By Jennifer Slattery, Contributing Editor
Do you know what the back of your hand says about you? Or your finger or palm for that matter? Quite a bit … if you are looking beyond the surface to track the pattern of veins that can uniquely identify an individual.
Vascular biometrics uses infrared technology to identify an individual’s unique vascular pattern from below the surface of the skin. The process is fairly simple to use and considered one of the most accurate forms of biometrics because variations in skin (e.g. cuts, burns) and environment do not affect the reading. Once an image is captured, it can be encrypted as a template and stored for verification. Like other biometrics, vascular templates can be used in conjunction with other tokens such as smart cards, PINs or passwords and can be used in a variety of functions such as time and attendance, border control, physical access control, and banking applications.
Vascular technology pioneers
Identica Corporation is a pioneer in the vascular biometrics industry. Terry Wheeler, President and COO of Identica Holdings, Inc. has expanded the company to all of North and South America as well as Europe. According to Mr. Wheeler “vascular technology is perfect anywhere people are working with their hands.”
Mr. Wheeler met Dr. Alex Choi in 2002 and began the relationship between Identica and TechSphere, Choi’s company in Asia. Identica is now the exclusive provider of the TechSphere Hand Vascular Pattern Recognition biometric solution in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
Dr. Choi, considered one of the fathers of vascular technology, has been working in this area for several years. He got his start in vascular technology while teaching at Myongli University in Seoul, South Korea when a hand geometry device was brought to him for further research.
Dr. Choi remembers, he “was reading a book about fortune telling” and the idea came to him. Rather than hand geometry, perhaps other patterns – specifically veins – in the hand could uniquely identify the individual. Eventually, Dr. Choi discovered how to extract the vascular pattern through illumination. This began his lifelong pursuit. He began with a lower end camera with infrared to capture the images. Through experiments and research, he eventually developed an algorithm and obtained a patent on his technology. This research led Dr. Choi to be the chief writer for ISO standard on vascular data interchange format (ISO 19794-9:2007).
Benefits over other biometric methods
The benefits of vascular technology over other forms of biometrics are its usability, psychological acceptance, “spoofability,” and speed, accuracy and cost.
According to Dr. Choi, “[Usability] is the greatest indicator of performance in large-scale deployments of biometrics.” The vascular readers are very easy to use and require very little training. It can be used by virtually 100% of the population.
There is a social stigma to fingerprinting not seen in vascular technology. While some people are still weary of using a biometric system with fingerprint or iris scans, vascular technology is accepted by more users.
Mr. Wheeler states, “vascular pattern is the only feature that resides inside the body…(which makes) it very difficult to copy so spoofing is almost impossible.” The infrared sensor examines the pattern below the surface of the skin which makes it virtually impossible to fake access control.
Speed and accuracy
It can be used quickly and accurately in all environments, even harsh environments such as work sites where workers use their hands in paint, water, dust, or construction materials.
Identica vascular biometric deployments
Identica estimates there are 2 million users of the Identica/Techsphere vascular solutions around the world. Current installations in Asia include airport staff in Seoul, Korea (approximately 30,000 users) and the Tokyo Police Data Center. Also the government of South Korea is using this technology for access control at its facilities.
According to Dr. Choi, “we are proud our repeat order rate for systems in the Asian region is 40% which shows our customers are liking the technology.”
Recently, Identica has secured a large-scale installation at the Port of Halifax as part of a new system developed by Unisys Corporation. A photograph combined with Identica’s vascular technology is embedded in a smart card and can be verified instantly when the blood flow pattern of the cardholder’s hand matches the one stored on the card.
The biometric information is stored on the individual cards not the database so that the information cannot be stolen or corrupted. Mr. Wheeler feels that “unions are very comfortable with vascular (technology)” because it eliminates the worry about privacy and avoids the ‘touchy’ issue of capturing fingerprints which, some fear, could be cross referenced against criminal databases.
Due to Canada’s harsh weather, the Halifax installation also includes their Weather Shield which is designed to protect Identica’s biometric devices from extreme cold, rain, snow, and direct sun. The Weather Shield can be opened in a variety of ways including PIN (motion sensor), smart card, or proximity card.
What’s next for the next generation of biometrics?
The future of vascular technology is wide open. There are three main players in vascular biometrics, each reporting new development and deployments in the prior year:
- TechSphere/Identica – reading vascular patterns in the back of hand
- Hitachi – reading vascular patterns in the finger
- Fujitsu – reading vascular patterns in the palm.
Dr. Choi and Identica have plans to make their technology more convenient for the user by eliminating the need for the handle on the VP-II vascular pattern scanner to eventually make it ‘touchless.’ Another future use is with ATM’s and everyday transactions. No matter what specific products or installations happen next in vascular technology, one thing is certain…it’s not going away, just like the back of your hand.
To learn more about Identica and vascular biometrics, visit http://www.identicacorp.com