US college tests fingerprint purchasing technology (Update)

Feb 22, 2013 by Amber Hunt
Christopher Jacques, 22, uses his index finger to pay for an Italian soda at a coffee shop at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology on Feb. 15, 2013. Jacques, an electrical engineering major from Pacific, Wash., is one of about 50 students and four faculty members at the school enrolled in a pilot program that uses Biocryptology—or one's fingerprint and hemoglobin—in place of cash or credit cards to pay for items. (AP Photo, Amber Hunt)

Futurists have long proclaimed the coming of a cashless society, where paper currency and plastic cards are replaced by fingerprint and retina scanners smart enough to distinguish a living, breathing account holder from an identity thief.

What they probably didn't see coming was that one such technology, patented by a Spanish company, would make its debut not in Silicon Valley but at a small college in remote South Dakota.

Two shops on the School of Mines and Technology campus are performing one of the world's first experiments in Biocryptology—a mix of biometrics (using physical traits for identification) and cryptology (the study of encoding private information). Students can buy a bag of potato chips with a machine that non-intrusively detects their hemoglobin to make sure the transaction is legitimate.

Researchers figure their technology would provide a critical safeguard against a morbid scenario sometimes found in spy movies in which a thief removes someone else's finger to fool the scanner.

On a recent Friday, student Bernard Keeler handed a Red Bull to a cashier in the Miner's Shack campus shop, typed his birthdate into a pay pad and swiped his finger. Within seconds, the machine had identified his print and checked that blood was pulsing beneath it, allowing him to make the purchase. Afterward, Keeler proudly showed off the receipt he was sent via email on his smartphone.

Fingerprint technology isn't new, nor is the general concept of using biometrics as a way to pay for goods. But it's the extra layer of protection—that deeper check to ensure the finger has a pulse—that researchers say sets this technology apart from already existing digital fingerprint scans, which are used mostly for criminal background checks.

Al Maas, president of Nexus USA—a subsidiary of Spanish-based Hanscan Indentity Management, which patented the technology—acknowledged South Dakota might seem an unlikely locale to test it, but to him, it was a perfect fit.

About 50 students and four faculty members at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology use pay pads such as this one, shown in a Feb. 15, 2013, photograph, in place of cash or credit cards to pay for items. The pilot program using Biocryptology—or one's fingerprint and hemoglobin—to identify buyers. (AP Photo, Amber Hunt)

"I said, if it flies here in the conservative Midwest, it's going to go anywhere," Maas said.

Maas grew up in South Dakota and wanted his home state to be the technology's test site. He convinced Hanscan owner Klaas Zwart that the 2,400-student Mines campus should be used as the starter location.

After Maas and Zwart introduced the idea to students this winter, about 50 stepped forward to take part in the pilot.

Robert Siciliano, a security expert with McAfee, Inc., minimized potential privacy concerns.

"We are hell bent on privacy issues here in the U.S. We get all up in arms when someone talks about scanning us or recording our information, but then we'll throw up everything about us on Facebook and give up all of our personal information for 10 percent off at a shoe store for instant credit," he said.

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said fingerprint technology on its own raises security issues, but he called "liveness detection" a step in the right direction.

"Any security measure can be defeated; it's a question of making it harder," he said.

The key to keeping biometric identification from becoming Big Brother-like is to make it voluntary and ensure that the information scanned is used exactly as promised, Stanley said.

Student Brian Wiles said it's exciting to be beta testing technology that could soon be worldwide.

"There was some hesitation, but the fact that it's the first in the world—that's the whole point of this school," said Wiles, 22. "We're innovators."

___

Follow Amber Hunt on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporteramber

Explore further: Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Crowdfunding aims to help students follow their dreams

Aug 08, 2012

A new crowdfunding platform that lets investors back individual people rather than specific ideas or projects will be piloted at the University of Michigan and four other universities this fall, company officials announced ...

US trying out free rapid AIDS test at drugstores

Jun 26, 2012

(AP) — U.S. health officials have set up a $1.2 million pilot program to that will offer free rapid HIV tests at pharmacies and in-store clinics in 24 cities and rural communities in hopes that testing ...

Justice Dept. settles Kindle-on-campus cases

Jan 13, 2010

(AP) -- Three universities testing Amazon's Kindle in the classroom have agreed to shelve the electronic book readers until they are fully functional for blind students, under a deal struck Wednesday with the Justice Department.

Kids who skip school are tracked by GPS

Feb 21, 2011

Frustrated by students habitually skipping class, police and school officials in Anaheim, Calif., are turning to GPS tracking to ensure they come to class.

Recommended for you

Cadillac CT6 will get streaming video mirror

14 hours ago

Cadillac said Thursday it will add high resolution streaming video to the function of a rearview mirror, so that the driver's vision and safety can be enhanced. The technology will debut on the 2016 Cadillac ...

Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones (Update)

Dec 19, 2014

Americans broadly back tight regulations on commercial drone operators, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, as concerns about privacy and safety override the potential benefits of the heralded drone ...

Cheaper, more powerful VR system for engineers

Dec 17, 2014

It's like a scene from a gamer's wildest dreams: 12 high-definition, 55-inch 3D televisions all connected to a computer capable of supporting high-end, graphics-intensive gaming.

Nokia HERE prepares maps for autonomous cars

Dec 17, 2014

Autonomous cars will need a new kind of map, a crucial element that until now has been given a back seat to the more popularly discussed issues of sensors and legal questions. Senior Writer Greg Miller in ...

Dutch launch 'intelligent bicycle' that warns of danger

Dec 15, 2014

The Netherlands on Monday launched its first-ever "intelligent bicycle", fitted with an array of electronic devices to help bring down the high accident rate among elderly cyclists in the bicycle-mad country.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

seilgu
not rated yet Feb 22, 2013
soon you'll be able to purchase a fingerprint on the black market..

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.