Palm scanners get thumbs up in schools, hospitals

by Brian Shane, USA TODAY  |  published on November 26, 2012


At schools in Pinellas County, Fla., students aren’t paying for lunch with cash or a card, but with a wave of their hand over a palm scanner.

“It’s so quick that a child could be standing in line, call mom and say, ‘I forgot my lunch money today.’ She’s by her computer, runs her card, and by the time the child is at the front of the line, it’s already recorded,” says Art Dunham, director of food services for Pinellas County Schools.

Students take about four seconds to swipe and pay for lunch, Dunham says, and they’re doing it with 99% accuracy.

“We just love it. No one wants to go back,” Dunham says.

Palm-scanning technology is popping up nationwide as a bona fide biometric tracker of identities, and it appears poised to make the jump from schools and hospitals to other sectors of the economy including ATM usage and retail. It also has applications as a secure identifier for cloud computing.

Here’s how it works: Using the same near-infrared technology that comes in a TV remote control or Nintendo Wii video game, the device takes a super high-resolution infrared photograph of the vein pattern just below a person’s skin. That image, between 1.5 and 2.5 square inches, is recorded and digitized.

The PalmSecure device is made by document-scanning manufacturer Fujitsu. So far, no other company has a palm scanner on the market — though at least one other company is working on the technology.

Like many technological breakthroughs, the development began accidentally. A decade ago, a Fujitsu engineer in Tokyo mistakenly ran his hand over a page scanner and it yielded an output that piqued his curiosity. Testing eventually showed that the veins in the palm of your hand are as unique as a fingerprint and can be photographed under infrared light.

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