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Palm vein scanners: just another fad or the face recognition killer?

Palm vein scanners: just another fad or the face recognition killer?
Contactless palm vein scanners are becoming popular, especially after Amazon unveiled its palm vein biometric solution for grocery payments.
After COVID-19 increased demand for contactless solutions, facial recognition was seen as the replacement for fingerprint sensors in access control. However, recent developments like the Amazon One, a palm vein scanner for grocery payments, have opened discussions on the use of palm vein biometrics in access control. This becomes even more relevant as concerns continue on the efficiency of facial recognition when people use masks

The research agency Mordor Intelligence expects the palm vein biometrics market to grow at a CAGR of 12 percent between 2020 and 2025. Banking, financial services, and insurance sectors are expected to adopt palm vein biometrics faster than other verticals. North America is expected to be the largest market for this in the short term. 

Advantages of palm vein biometrics

The advantages of palm vein biometrics stem mainly from the nature of the modality itself. Palm vein scanners operate with infrared light that detects and map the vein structure on a person’s palm, which is unique to every individual.
  1. Contactless and hygienic
Palm vein scanners now allow you to scan yourself without having any physical contact with the machine. Just hover your palm over the scanner, and the reader would detect it and begin scanning. This might seem more relevant now than ever because of COVID-19. Still, even if we don’t consider the pandemic, such a system is necessary for places like hospitals where sanitization protocols are standard.
  1. Maximum security
Biometrics is definitely more secure than traditional passcodes, RFID cards, and even mobile-based access control. But what makes palm vein more secure than modalities like a fingerprint or facial recognition is that the veins in your body are never exposed to others. The moment you use facial recognition, an image of your face is captured and, in effect, becomes available for spoofing attacks. Companies rely on liveness tests to combat this issue, but this is a flaw in the modality’s nature that will always pose a risk.
  1. Maximum privacy
Facial recognition raises several privacy concerns because when your face is captured, it enters databases that may be shared among agencies and used without consent. Technology has advanced far enough to identify people using cameras placed in public places with facial recognition. While this may be useful for several purposes, like identifying known offenders, individual privacy cannot be taken lightly.
Palm vein scanners allow the use of biometrics without exposing a person’s face, fingerprint, or other visible parts that may be misused by malicious parties.
  1. Accurate with more data points
A palm offers a larger surface area compared to iris, fingerprint biometrics. And unlike fingerprints, there are no concerns of cuts and bruises at the skin-level that may affect the reading. The false rejection rate (FRR) and false acceptance rate (FAR) of palm vein biometric technology are among the lowest in any kind of access control system.
  1. Reliable over time and change of conditions
The unique nature of palm veins makes it reliable at any point in time. Unlike facial recognition, there are no concerns about background lighting. The reader’s distance on a palm scanner is easier to discern than the slight ambiguity that often arises with face recognition machines. Unlike fingerprints, palm veins don’t change or become less visible as a person ages, and hence there wouldn’t be any concern on reliability over time.  

Looking for palm vein readers? Here is a collection of finger and palm vein readers.

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