Fingerprint and palm vein are two of the leading biometrics on the market, and they both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. In this blog post, we'll compare and contrast the differences between fingerprint and palm vein biometrics across five factors:
- Ease of Use
But first, some background behind the two biometrics:
The History of Fingerprint
Fingerprint is the most popular and well-known biometric on the market, and for a good reason: it's reliable, cheap, and it works.
It's also the oldest biometric in history, having been used in cultures around the world for a variety of purposes. The ancient Chinese used fingerprints to authenticate official documents, and the Babylonians used fingerprints around 200 BC as a way to sign written contracts.
Fingerprint is a time-tested, reliable technology that still has many uses today. Virtually all modern smartphones include fingerprint scanners a way to securely unlock the phone, and it’s still the most popular biometric for access control and payment authentication purposes.
The History of Palm Vein
Palm vein, on the other hand, is in many ways the polar-opposite of fingerprint technology: instead of being ancient, it's quite new. Instead of requiring physical contact, it's contactless. And instead of being external to the body, it's internal.
It works by using infrared light to scan the palm, which is absorbed by deoxygenated hemoglobin traveling back to the lungs through the vein pathways in the palm. This complex vein structure is unique to everyone, even among identical twins, and remains highly stable throughout life.
Palm Vein vs Fingerprint Comparison
The fact that law enforcement can collect fingerprints to identify suspects at the scene of a crime highlights the vulnerability of this biometric. That is: fingerprints can be collected by a third party without your consent. When used for security applications, therefore, fingerprints are one of the less-safe methods of identification, since hackers can easily forge fingerprints in order to trick the scanner.
- Palm Vein
In the field of security, palm vein wins out over fingerprint due to two main reasons:
Palm vein is an internal biometric, which means that your biometric code is never exposed to the outside world. This means that unless you actively scan your hand at a Keyo terminal, your palm vein pattern can not be captured (and thereby duplicated).
Additionally, since the terminal requires blood flow for the scan to work, it has built-in liveness tests. This means that it's virtually impossible to spoof with a forged replica because, even if someone could get a hold of your palm vein pattern (a task that would be nearly impossible in and of itself), they would still need to have live blood flowing through the veins of the replica. Not happening.
Because of these factors, palm vein has major security advantages over fingerprint and is arguably the most secure biometric on the market.
The accuracy of any biometric is measured by its False Acceptance Rate (FAR) and False Rejection Rate (FRR). The FAR measures how likely it is for an unauthorized user to be incorrectly given access, while the FRR measures how likely it is for an authorized user to be incorrectly denied access.
The following graphic shows a comparison between the FRR and FAR of several of the most popular biometrics: