Barclays corporate customers will soon be able to log into their online accounts by scanning their fingers with biometric readers that use vein authentication technology from Hitachi.
From next year, the bank's corporate customers will be able to access their accounts and authorise payments with the small piece of hardware, making PINs, passwords and authentication codes redundant.
Hitachi says that, unlike fingerprints, vein patterns are extremely difficult to spoof or replicate and the scanned finger must be attached to a live human body for authentication.
The finger vein pattern is stored on a SIM card embedded within the Barclays device but the bank itself will not hold the data and there will be no public record of it.
Michael Mueller, MD, head of cash management, Barclays, who demonstrated the device at a launch event in London this week, says that the unit will allow for 20 errors in scanning before it will lock users out of a linked treasury system. As for fraud, Barclays estimates that it would take "a million" simultaneous tries to "break the device" or hack into the security.
The scanner takes only a few seconds to verify a registered user's finger vein pattern, which then acts as a digital signature for online account access and authorising transactions. Mueller did not offer a price for the unit, saying "Barclays is still working on a commercial model".
Mueller with the new reader
The reader is designed as a desktop tool for PCs and is attached via a USB connection. As of now, Barclays has no announced plans to roll the technology out to retail customers or modify the service to work with tablets or mobiles.
Hitachi's VeinID is already used by banks for password replacement, single sign-on and ATM access in Japan, North America and Europe, but Barclays claims that the combination of vein biometric and highly secure digital signature technology in its reader is a first for the global financial sector.
Ashok Vaswani, CEO Barclays personal and corporate banking says: "This solution is at the leading edge of innovation and is in direct response to client concerns about the threat of online fraud while making our customers' lives easier through its convenience. We have shown the technology to a range of business and the interest and enthusiasm for the product is tremendous."
The reader is Barclays' second major foray into biometrics. The bank is also rolling out voice recognition technology at its call centres that authenticates customers when they start talking so that they do not need to share their passcodes or 16-digit debit card numbers for verification.