Vein-Based Identification Systems Catching on in Japan

Tokyo -- Biometric personal identification systems using veins in either people's fingers or palms are catching on in Japan, spreading from automated teller machines to condominiums, company offices and other facilities.

This week, the Chiba Institute of Technology announced that it will start using palm-vein identification technology to recognize students that want access to their school records through special terminals.

The biometric systems expose a person's finger or palm to light and capture an image of the vein pattern and then check the image against the person's registered data. Of the two methods that are becoming the mainstream, Fujitsu Ltd. has developed the palm-vein identification system, while Hitachi Ltd. has created the finger-vein system.

Their biometric systems quickly won acceptance among Japanese banks striving to counter the growing problem of bank card skimming, whereby criminals steal account data stored on the magnetic stripes of the card and make copies.

Now, their popularity is growing thanks to Japan's introduction in April of a law protecting personal information.

Aeon Credit Service Co., a credit card service provider, installed finger-vein identification devices at its head office and branches nationwide, while the University of Tokyo Hospital introduced the palm-vein identification system for entry into its information database rooms.

A real estate development unit of Nagoya Railroad Co. plans to install the palm-vein identification system at the main entrance of a condominium building that will go on sale soon.

Fujitsu expects to sell one million units of its palm-vein identification system in fiscal 2007, jumping 200-fold from the company's shipments in the past year. Hitachi aims to rack up 45 billion yen in sales from its finger-vein system over the three years to fiscal 2007.