Monday, June 12, 2006

The Eyes (and fingers) Have "IT"

It has to fast, un-invasive, 99%+ accurate, and secure ... but it is an interesting area of Information Technology expansion and application.

Excerpts from Business Week Online -

Biometrics: Payments at Your Fingertips
Fingerprints and iris scans will replace keys and credit cards if outfits like Pay By Touch succeed in their biologic missionTechnology - By Alex Halperin

In the future, no one will need pockets. That stuff jingling around in there -- keys, credit cards, checkbooks -- will be replaced by something closer to the body. When you need to open a door or make a purchase, chances are you'll do it with a fingerprint, a voice command, or a computer scan of your eyeball.

That is, if companies like Pay By Touch have anything to say about it. Pay By Touch, a closely held San Francisco outfit, specializes in biometrics, or the technology of identifying people by unique biologic traits -- not just fingerprints, but also irises, palms, and voices. And increasingly, those traits are being used in place of keys, credit cards, and even computer passwords.
What's in it for the store? Using fingerprint scanners can accelerate purchase times by minimizing the checkout lane "fumble factor." Because a customer's Pay By Touch account can be linked to several payment devices, retailers can also save money by encouraging people to use accounts that incur lower fees, such as a checking account accessed by debit card. A recent report by Bernstein Research noted that systems like Pay By Touch could increase pressure on credit-card companies to reduce their charges to retailers so they don't lose market share.


Supermarket owners overall say they're pleased with Pay By Touch results. "We'd like to encourage anybody who has a checking account to enroll in Pay By Touch," says Trisha Belisle, manager of retail technology at Cub Foods, a Midwest supermarket chain owned by Supervalu (SVU). She declined to comment on whether it saves the stores money, however.

Jay Stanley, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union's Technology & Liberty Project, says that information obtained by a biometrics company could threaten consumer privacy, though he doesn't single out Pay By Touch. "The main problem with the situation we're in right now is that the technology is really ahead of the law," Stanley says.

The ACLU does not object to biometrics technology itself. "We need a law to prevent against the dark side of new tech to make sure they are not used against us" by the government mandating it or companies selling it, Stanley says.
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Where would we be if the ACLU wasn't there protecting us from our silly selves?

Originally posted at MAXINE (March 28,2006).

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