Life is an on-going education that never stops and I always appreciate it when I learn something new from one of the many events that I attend each year.
For example, at CIO Asia magazine's recent annual CIO conference in Singapore, I discovered another unique way to identify individual human beings - by the veins in their index fingers. Forget retina scans, forget fingerprints, there is a new electronic identity system called finger vein biometrics.
This was unveiled to me, and our conference delegates, by Hitachi Asia, one of the sponsors of the conference. I was fascinated by the presentation by Danny Tan, director, professional services, Hitachi Asia , who certainly justified Hitachi's slogan 'inspire the next' when he unveiled some of the amazingly clever digital ID systems they have developed.
Now finger vein technology relies on the uniqueness of the patterns of every human being's veins in their index finger and, the experts say, every finger vein is unique and constant, even different between identical twins.
The Hitachi system uses a special reader, with an infrared light LED to shine through a person's index finger to highlight the veins (they are invisible to the naked eye) and match them with a database to authenticate an individual's identity. I learned that the original light transmission technology for FVB authentication was developed by Hitachi back in 1990 and that tens of thousands of FVB devices have been introduced since then.
Finger vein reader
The readers look very much like those you would expect to be used for fingerprints, such as those currently used at Singapore's Changi airport, but they are completely different, even though they also need people to put their finger onto the reader.
Because these unique finger vein patterns are hidden inside the body, Hitachi says there is very little risk of forgery or theft. Unlike fingerprints, which can be smudged or even possibly forged, finger veins are locked away and claimed by Hitachi to be the "best solution for identifying a person".
Danny Tan told our conference delegates that 80 per cent of Japan's major banks are already using finger vein biometrics for two, or even three factor authentication of transactions. And, yes, they use FVB for their ATM machines too.
Hitachi says these FVB systems can be used in conjunction with corporate identification cards or anti-theft monitors to achieve multiple layers of security. I wonder how long it will be before metal keys for household access will become redundant and we will all be sticking our fingers into scanners beside our front door to enter?
Or when we will no longer use metal keys to start our cars, turning instead to FVB systems.