FVB has some diverse uses including door access control at offices, factories, airports and laboratories or hospital drug storage rooms. The system could also be used to make laptops or desktops only accessible by their owners or people authorized to use them. They are already being used to identify office workers before they are able to print documents, so printing output is securely tracked.
World's smallest RFID chip
And Hitachi also displayed some other very clever devices, such as an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chip about a third the size of a grain of rice - claimed to be the world's smallest RFID chip - which can be attached to tools to keep track.
Another was their AirLocation system, which can be used to precisely locate employees or even set off alarms if unauthorized staff go into secure areas. Or the RFID system that can be attached to 'removable cages' like those used in factories and supermarket trolleys.
Did you know that in the US alone, more than 1,000 removable cages are lost each year, costing an estimated US$1.4 million?
The Hitachi presentation was particularly fascinating. Did you know they already have systems that can detect and reject unauthorized PCs from a corporate network? Or they can automatically cleanse and update computers that plug in, without the operators knowing? Or that they have a system that simply blocks USB devices by not showing them anywhere on the network system?
I did raise some privacy and individual freedom concerns about these devices during our conference panel discussion, but Danny Tam said this was not the focus of the Hitachi systems. As he said, security is always a "balance of corporate control and end user convenience".
Never-the-less, I noticed on one of his slides that the AirLocation system could be used to track inmates in prisons, so I guess there will always be the temptation for the authorities to use technology as a set of virtual handcuffs.
Is finger vein technology and other biometric systems taking personal identification too far at the risk of invading everyone's privacy?
What do you think?
Ross O. Storey is the managing editor of all FBM Asia publications.