Let Your Fingers Do the Buying

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Let Your Fingers Do the Buying

By Michael Browne - 07/02/2002
Imagine running into your neighborhood c-store for a bottle of soda. When you come back from the cooler you see a line of three or four people waiting to check out. No problem — with a quick scan of your fingerprint, your purchase is paid for and you're on your way.

Although shopping hasn't been made that easy yet, attendees at the "Paying at Your Fingertip" session learned that the emerging technology of biometrics may make it a reality soon. According to Creed Jones, senior product manager at Sagem Morpho Inc., that time may be sooner than many of us think. "Biometrics is not a speculative industry," he said. "It's out there in a number of uses worldwide. It's mature, available and it works."

Biometrics is the automated verification of a person's identity based on specific characteristics of their body and behavior. Biometrics modalities include fingerprints, hand geometry (often used in border control), iris recognition and retina scanning, face recognition, voice, keystroke dynamics and signature dynamics.

One company that supplies biometric technology is BioPay Inc., a Herndon, Va.-based company that has successfully implemented biometrics for clients who use it for check-cashing verification. "We use fingerprint identification to access a person's check cashing history," said Tim Robinson, president.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to launching such a system is getting consumers to enroll, which is key. According to Jones, "Biometrics can only match what's already in the system. It can only verify an identity, not deduce one."

But once the system is in place, there are many benefits for the user. Data is shared by all the businesses that use BioPay, and it allows them to track customers, acts as a fraud deterrent and decreases losses, by warning the clerk of a potential bad check before it is cashed.

BioPay's Robinson envisions other retail applications for the technology. "It's ideal for loyalty programs," he said, noting that it offers more convenient identification of frequent customers, as well as more accurate data by preventing the multiple use of a single card.

Biometrics can also be used for security and access control, and in the future, who knows? Biometric-protected driver's licenses, integration with wireless systems, the list goes on. Currently, BioPay is available in 17 states, and the company expects to have 1 million customers enrolled by the end of the year. As Jones said, it's not science fiction and it's not some crystal-ball glimpse into the future. It's here and it's now.

ABOVE: BioPay's Tim Robinson