Following an interview with QBS Alpha Gen, the UK’s Cyber Security Value Added Distributor arm of QBS, Hitachi Security Business Group’s, Head of Sales and Marketing, Andy Milton discuses the latest advances in fingervein technology.
Modern biometric systems started to emerge at the same time as computer systems, in the second half of the twentieth century. Initial efforts to replace passwords with biometrics spurred the development of fingerprint systems. As these methods become ubiquitous in consumer electronics, businesses have started to test their applicability. Statistics suggest nearly one in five UK office IT security teams have started to experiment with biometric security techniques.
However, an alternative, less well-known, biometric technology does exist that offers businesses a superior solution.
Fingervein technology, first developed and patented by Hitachi in 2005, is increasingly being used across a range of sectors, from banking to retail. This form of verification uses the unique finger vein patterns to verify an individual, and works through a process of image capture, verification and authentication. Finger vein devices use infrared light to penetrate the skin, which when absorbed by the haemoglobin in the blood reflects the image of the finger vein pattern to the device. This image is captured by an in-device camera, and image processing constructs a finger vein pattern from this image. When a user sets up their finger vein authentication, after the first image is digitized and changed into a user token. Whenever the device is used, it will grant access when a match is made. The enrolment token does not match the verification token.
The adoption by Apple of biometrics as an authentication method has really helped in opening the market to fingervein, as people are increasingly used to using biometrics for verification. Finger vein technology has been around for 20 years, but the adaptation of this technology to laptop and mobile cameras, alongside developments in the technology itself, has opened the market up and turned finger vein into a huge opportunity for the biometric market.
The question many might ask is what is different about a fingervein and a fingerprint, and what makes veins better?
Fingervein technology over fingerprint
There has long been a demand on the market for a more accurate technology than fingerprint. It has taken longer for finger vein technology to come to fruition on the market largely because of the relative complexity of making finger vein scanners – it is easy and cheap to make fingerprint scanners. However, people are increasingly realising the drawbacks of using cheaper fingerprint applications, and the numerous benefits instead of using finger vein.
Fingerprint recognition requires physical contact with a scanning device, making the technology vulnerable to prints being lifted from finger smears left behind. Alongside collecting individual prints, “Masterprints” can also be generated using machine learning to match with many fingerprints.
The accuracy of fingerprints is also questionable – not just because fingerprints can be faked, but because the surface of skin changes over time. For users this can mean repeated failures to access the device.
Fingervein scanners don’t require physical contact with the scanner, removing the risk of spoofing or failed authentications due to change overtime.
We are launching as part of the Hitachi response to the new normal, a completely contactless device, that will read a Vein pattern from roughly 20mm and this coupled with our camera based technology is providing the user with safe, highly effective solutions.
Hitachi have a long record in producing highly secure technology and the new solutions will never capture an image of a Vein pattern, we will use the Vein pattern to build a user token that is highly secure and similar to the method used in many of the world’s highly secure PKI technology. Fingerprint scanning holds information on the device rather than centrally – if you lose your phone or tablet, your fingerprint is of no use to you, as you can’t use it to access your details on another device. Finger vein applications can be stored centrally, making it easier to operate across multiple devices.
Previously cost has been the key prohibiting factor in finger vein technology becoming mainstream, despite its obvious benefits over face and fingerprint. But with the shift to using standard cameras in various applications of the technology, and moving away from specialist hardware, we can now see that start to change. For example, in applications that utilise a user’s own camera, the cost for deploying finger vein becomes a simple software licence cost – reducing the cost of deployment by around 20% compared to previous costs. This helps to make finger vein technology a highly secure and robust mode of biometric now available to everyone.
Ease of use of fingervein
Fingervein technology can work seamlessly with existing technology, without the need to add a physical scanner or use tokens. For a PC or laptop, the in-built camera can be upgraded using software to scan finger veins. Utilising existing technology makes it far easier for a large business to install the tech at scale.
The process of software installation on a laptop is typically quite fast. It generally takes around five minutes, and applications can take less than two seconds to authenticate a user. For the user, identifying themselves through finger vein technology is also an incredibly simple process. In the case of the technology being installed on a computer, for example, the unique finger vein pattern of the user can be identified by a computer’s camera with a simple raising of the hand. Barclays Bank have recently deployed finger vein for corporate customers and found that it has reduced the number of errors and instances of fraud. Customers have also found it enabled them to process payments much faster and more efficiently.
It’s simple, and it’s fast, whilst offering a long-term solution that doesn’t need to be constantly updated.
Sector applications of fingervein
For a long time, finger vein technology was seen as a high-end banking solution, and not one for the mass market. However, this has already started to change. Fingervein technology is of course useful for individuals who simply don’t want to have to remember a plethora of passwords. For a range of businesses there is value to found by using this technology in their operations.
There is naturally a strong impetus for banks to turn to a more secure method of authentication. In Japan, finger vein technology was first deployed at ATMs in 1997. In Europe, entry of biometrics into the sector was given the official nod in Europe June of 2019, when the European Banking Authority clarified that all biometric techniques, including methods such as finger vein recognition, are acceptable. This also has benefits for consumers, as it reduces the risk of fraud. A report by Goode Intelligence estimates that by the end of 2020, 1.9 billion banking customers will be using biometrics for banking services.
The increasing use of fingervein in the banking sector has naturally started to extend to wider payment uses, with finger vein technology appearing in a variety of retail applications. A bar in Manchester last year became the first to start using finger vein technology, enabling customers to pay for orders with a simple swipe of their finger. Launched in partnership with Fingopay, this followed successful pilots across other venues across the UK.
Online businesses are also increasingly turning to biometrics. Ecommerce is another area where we can expect to see finger vein technology increasingly being used. There are of course the natural security considerations, but also a business-case perspective – one in three online shoppers in the US have abandoned a transaction rather than re-enter payment details. This is again another area where finger vein has an advantage over fingerprint.
Removing the password from Windows Login or application login, even when the application is not hosted by you. Users have battled with long complicated passwords that can be forgotten, borrowed, reused or lent and relying on this as a method of guaranteeing someone identity is flawed. With the proliferation of compromised passwords over the Internet moving to something that physically is part of a user to identify them is much more secure and easy for them to manage, reducing Phishing risks and password stuffing attacks.
Access Control and Time and Attendance
Now more than ever, know where you employees are on a given day and time, to limit the risks and issues that may occur in the workplace. Fire, Theft, Illness and ensuring you can tell the right people to take the right steps and be flexible in allowing them to work in whichever location is needed, Home, customer, site or office. A solution that provides an option for all of these scenarios is key.
The use of biometrics to correctly identify staff and patients before any procedure or drugs are administered, to reduce the chance of an error or a mistaken identity and comply with best practice, especially if the patient is unable to communicate or non verbal.
The use of our technology to identify staff and visitors to track who has visited and when to ensure only tested and authenticated people can enter the home to protect the residents and the reduce the risk of the Virus being spread within the home.
Biometrics are increasingly becoming the preferred verification method for both consumers and corporates. Studies are finding that, for consumers, security is increasingly starting to outweigh convenience, signalling a turning tide for the era of passwords. Importantly, we are also moving into an age where people are increasingly comfortable with biometrics. An IBM survey found that, globally, 87% of adults say they will be comfortable with these technologies in the near future.
Whilst Finger Vein is tried and tested, the new options and solutions make this robust and reliable Biometric technology available to a much wider audience, when more people get used to the idea of biometric technology, this is therefore an exciting time for finger vein technology. With its proven security advantages over alternative modes of authentication, including both facial recognition and fingerprint scanning, finger vein technology is set to emerge as the easiest and most secure method of authentication.
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