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Palm scanning tech explained: Everything you need to know

Just like fingerprints, your vein patterns are unique. Now, palm scanning technology is using your veins as a new form of identification that's more secure than other biometrics.

Now, you can take matters into your own hands -- meaning you can show your identification and submit payment with a wave of your hand.

Palm scanning is a form of biometrics -- or recognition technology -- that requires only a person's palm. Imagine running to the store and not having to worry about your wallet again. Palm scanning technology makes this possible.

No, it's not a medium reading your palm to tell you about your future; it's a scanner reading your palm as a payment option and to prove your identification. Palm scanning could make its way into stores, banks, employment buildings and healthcare facilities.

Amazon introduced a new payment method with its Amazon One product that uses this palm scanning technology. And it will be making its way into more than 500 Whole Foods locations. Amazon Prime members can link their credit or debit cards and ID to their Amazon One account.

Other retailers, like Panera Bread, and airport retailers in major cities -- such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York -- are also using Amazon One palm scanning payment technology for quicker payments. Aramark Sports + Entertainment and alcohol vendors at sports stadiums are also using this identification method to authenticate a buyer's age more quickly for alcohol purchases.

Keep reading to see how palm scanning works and how this could become a new alternative for identification and payment.

What is palm scanning?

Palm scanning uses the vein patterns in a person's palm print for personal identification. The palm scanner creates an image of vein patterns in the hand and then compares them to others in the database. It's a form of biometrics verification. Fingerprints are one of the oldest examples of biometrics identification. Facial recognition is another popular form of biometrics identification.

In the 1980s, Kodak employee Joe Rice was the first to create palm scanning technology. However, it wasn't until the late 1990s, when vein scanner technology started to be sold commercially, that it really took off.

How does palm scanning work?

Red blood cells in the body contain the protein hemoglobin, which transports oxygen. The veins are part of the transport system to carry oxygen-depleted blood to the heart, and arteries take blood away from the heart.

Hemoglobin absorbs the infrared light that the scanner shines at the palm. Because the veins are unable to reflect light, they produce a dark pattern. The system uses these patterns to build images or scans. If the image is being used for the first time, the system either puts it in the database or compares it to the other photos and data there.

Palm scanning uses

There are various ways to use palm scanning technology's biometric data. Examples of these uses include the following:

  • Personal identification. This type of biometrics-based authentication technology is more accurate than face recognition or fingerprints because the data measured is not affected by the hand's surface, which can change due to aging or injury.
  • Access management. Passwords are less secure than palm vein scans, which can stop unwanted access to sensitive data or machinery.
  • Financial sources. Palm scans can serve as a digital signature for online and in-person transactions, such as using Amazon One. This method replaces the need for physical cards or cash as all payment methods are synced with the palm vein scan.
  • Health services. Palm scans can be used to swiftly identify patients and obtain all necessary information through medical history -- such as allergies or health conditions.
  • Employee monitoring and communication. The behaviors of employees at work -- such as arrival time, use of equipment and amount of time spent at a location -- can be observed using palm scanning.

Benefits of palm scanning

Palm scanning technology offers several benefits. Key advantages include the following:

  • Enhanced security. Palm scanning is one of the more secure methods of biometrics because each person's vein pattern is unique and hard to replicate or forge. The vein patterns are within the body, making them difficult to access without the person being aware.
  • Reliable and accurate. The unique vein pattern remains the same throughout a person's lifetime. The palm vein pattern is also larger than the fingerprint or iris, so the scan contains more data to increase the accuracy of identification.
  • More privacy protection. Palm vein patterns cannot be scanned from a distance. The palm needs to be in front of the sensor. The vein pattern is not exposed to others nearby, so it offers a higher level of privacy protection.
  • Versatile. Palm scanning can be used for more than identification. Its versatility makes it a secure option for different scenarios such as payments, attendance and health records management.
  • Convenient and quick. Scanning the palm is quick and convenient. It only takes a couple of seconds for the systems to scan and recognize the vein pattern. This makes it a viable option for high-traffic areas where speed is essential -- such as security controls at events or payment authentication.
  • Contactless. Palm scanning is hygienic because people do not have to physically touch the surface of a device. This makes it extremely valuable in areas where germs are a concern -- such as healthcare facilities -- or if several people need to use it, which would make a physical device hard to keep sterile.

Concerns about palm scanning

Along with the benefits, there are also concerns with palm scanning. Some disadvantages include the following:

  • Expensive technology compared to alternatives.
  • Systems need to encrypt the data for storing palm veins.
  • Some health conditions might affect the quality of the image, such as fevers.
  • The databases tend to be smaller compared to other technologies for storing information.

Learn more about biometric security concerns.

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