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Blood money

Get ready to pay for things with your veins

Fingerprint scanners like those on the latest iPhones could soon give way to another biometric identifier: The geometry of the veins in your hands.

Hackers in the Chaos Computer Club last year fooled the Apple TouchID, which unlocks the iPhone 5S when presented with a familiar finger, by creating a copy of fingerprint residue. Fingerprints, the hackers wrote in a blog post, are a terrible way to secure your information: You leave them everywhere when you touch things, and it’s (relatively) easy to create fakes that fool the current scanner technology.

But if you’re still looking to replace passwords with biometric scans, there’s still hope. We now have an increasing number of scanners that identify you by the pattern of veins in your hand instead.

Vein geometry is just as unique as irises and fingerprints. The serpentine network of your vascular system is determined by many factors, including random influences in the womb. The result is a chaotic, singular print. Even twins have different vein structure in their hands. Vein patterns don’t change much as you age, so a scan of your palm can serve as biometric identification for the rest of your life.

Fujitsu has already produced a standalone palm-vein scanner as well as integrated one into its laptops. ComputerWorld reported last month that the Japanese company might soon use them to unlock cellphones as well.

Vein scanners could be used to unlock everything from your phone to your front door, but the technology may get its first mainstream use for fast-and-easy point of sale payments. US company Biyo (which debuted at 2012’s Consumer Electronics Show as PulseWallet) is the first to provide payment terminals that connect a palm scan to a credit card. And now a number of stores and eateries at Lund University in Sweden offer Quixter, a vein pattern payment system developed by student Fredrik Leifland. With 1,600 users, Leifland considers his system to be the first truly functional one of its kind. You can see it in action here.

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