Fingerprint technology that checks you are alive

Students in South Dakota are the first people to use a system to prevent fraud that not just scans your fingerprints but checks you have a pulse.

More than 50 students and faculty members at the School of Mines and Technology in South Dakota are part of that pilot programme which uses biocryptology – biometrics and cryptology combined – to allow them to buy items at campus shops.

Users must first set up an account in person, bringing with them identification, banking information and their index fingers.

To buy an item, students enter their birthday, as an extra identification step, and then put their index finger into scanner, which encrypts the fingerprint and sends the data over the intranet to a secure system that checks it against their records.

The scan goes beneath the top layers of skin to detect haemoglobin in the blood, meaning a pulse must be detected before the purchase is allowed.

Joseph Wright, the school’s associate vice president for research-economic development, said: “It’s no secret that in our society, identity theft and credit card theft are huge problems. It’s a huge sap on our economy combating these plagues – and they’re growing.”

“What this allows you to do is get rid your credit card, get rid of your wallet, get rid of the items in your purse that could be used to identify you and make purchases or transactions, and really use your own self, your biometrics, as your authentication,” Wright said.

The system will warn users if they have insufficient funds to buy something and they will also automatically be emailed receipts showing what they have bought and how much it cost.

The developers are planning to build in the option for users to choose an “emergency finger” to use in case of a hold-up. A scan of the middle finger, for example, could alert police that something’s amiss.


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