Palm-vein technology is a relative newcomer to the biometric scene. Developed in 2011, palm-vein uses near infrared light to create a unique image of the blood flowing through the vein structure of a user’s palm. Blood must be flowing for the scanner to work. No separate liveness verification system required.

The technology has a FAR of 0.00001% and a FRR of 0.01%, the most secure of any of the modalities covered here.


Upsides

Palm-vein doesn’t suffer from the consent problems of fingerprints, facial scans, or iris scans, which can all be taken without a user’s knowledge. The biometric cannot reveal emotion, sexual orientation, genetic sex, or chromosomal or neurological diseases, and it is not currently associated with criminal background either in people’s minds or in government databases. Scanners are contactless. At least from the front end, palm-vein technology is (so far) unspoofable.


Downsides

Palm-vein is nowhere close to as established as fingerprint or iris scans. As such, suppliers are limited, and relatively few companies employ the technology. While there are few hinderances to its acceptability, it is not currently normalized the way fingerprint is. Palm-vein scans could be used to reveal certain sensitive medical information such as cardiovascular disease, which if not properly limited by the software or by policy could pose a threat to privacy. It is currently unclear how palm-vein scanners will compete with established modalities in popular consumer markets for products like laptops and cellphones.

*Finger-vein technology offers a similar alternative to palm-vein, but the technology is too similar to cover in detail here. The major difference is that it registers the vein structure in a finger or two instead of the palm. Finger-vein is less accurate than palm-vein, with about the same FAR and FRR values as iris scans. The technologies have very similar upsides and downsides. Finger-vein's obvious similarity to fingerprint technology may make it minorly more acceptable, though the current scanner designs involve inserting a finger into a somewhat sketchy-looking, dark hole, so who knows?


In the Market

Palm-vein has been used for years throughout Japan on the basis of its security, primarily by banks and at ATMs (though also occasionally by public libraries). The technology also expidites security in airports. Keyo is the only company currently building a consumer-focused network around palm-vein technology. We're replacing keys, cards, tokens, fobs, and tickets with a simple palm scan, as well as offering software that makes it easy to integrate palm-vein into existing systems.


Predictions

In the near future we predict an increase in the use of palm-vein technology, not only because we’re actively working toward that goal but also based on its merits in terms of security and issues of consent. Palm-vein reveals just enough about a person to identify her - not criminal record or legal status or emotional state. Rather than betting on a biometric like facial recognition, which will be limited in a million new legislative ways in the coming years, we're betting on the option with limits built in, with liveness built in, and with the strongest security.

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