Your eyes will soon pay for a latte

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Your eyes will soon pay for a latte

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An iris recognition system payment machine by Irience demonstrated at a forum in Seoul on Thursday. By Cho Moon-gyu

In the near future, when you order an iced Americano at a coffee shop, you will be able to just peer into a lens to pay. In the not-so-distant future you may not even have to carry cash or cards anywhere once the pattern of your iris has been registered at a bank and that information shared with the Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearing Institute. Are you an online shopper? No problem: Just look into your computer’s camera and your payment will be debited from your bank account.

Whether this sounds like another step on the way to domination by Big Brother or a liberating technology, it may be on the way. Irience, a start-up company specializing in eye-recognition security systems, demonstrated such a system at a forum Thursday on the subject of biological ID systems in the financial industry. The meeting was organized by the Bank of Korea and the Korea Financial Telecommunications and Clearing Institute.

Iris recognition technology in the past has been mostly the domain of security systems, but it is now spreading to the financial area as a replacement for credit cards and the even newer NFC chips in smartphones.

Your iris is not the only part of your body that can identify you: Fingerprint identification has been around for about a century, and your face, voice and even veins can be a means of proving your identity. And with identity theft growing, some financial companies are already moving to implement the new techniques into their services.

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One such company is the Industrial Bank of Korea, which is keenly interested in launching an iris recognition payment system.

“We need to find a new authentication and verification system with strong security,” said an IBK official. “We are looking into adopting the iris recognition system to differentiate ourselves from other banks.”

IBK has already signed an agreement with Irience.

“We are discussing whether to implement the technology in our safety deposit boxes as a starter,” the official said. “We are also open to the possibility of using it in our ATMs or developing financial products using iris information.”

Another company, Korecen, demonstrated a vein recognition payment system at the forum. When a person places a finger on a device, it reads the vein pattern under the skin. On the screen, a pattern that looked like that of a leaf placed over a light appeared: the owner of the finger was recognized almost immediately.

Abroad, financial companies like Barclays and Japan’s Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsui and Resona banks already use finger vein recognition technology in their ATMs or for internet banking.

In Korea, Shinhan Bank is also taking interest in the technology and plans to adopt the system.

“As financial frauds are becoming more diversified, there is a growing demand for a foolproof authentication means,” said a Shinhan Bank official. “We are looking into the technology as resistance to biometric recognition systems has been reduced as fingerprint recognition systems are already used on smartphones.”

The bank said it began last month to perfect a system for its use.

Fujitsu Korea has developed a recognition system that reads the veins on a user’s palm.

“When this technology is adopted on ATMs, users don’t need to carry a card; they just enter the year and date of their birth or a password and then press their hand to a screen,” said an official of the company. “In Japan the system is already in use and is popular among housewives who don’t have to struggle with purses while holding a shopping basket.”

Japan’s Mitsubishi UFJ and Ogaki Kyoritsu banks have already adopted the Fujitsu technology on their ATMs.


BY KIM KYUNG-JIN [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]

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