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Mar 14 2015

Always at Hand: Biometric Authentication with FUJITSU PalmSecure ID Match, Pt. 1


Identification and authentication solutions have been a cornerstone of digital technology since the first electronic access control systems emerged in the 1970s. Today, these systems are practically ubiquitous: airlines, banks, hospitals, hotels and state agencies will only serve people who are able to identify themselves and prove their status as a customer, employee, patient, guest or citizen. The first chapter of this two-part blog introduces PalmSecure, a technology developed by Fujitsu to make identification and authentication more secure and convenient.

"If the Theater of Pompey had had our access controls, then Caesar might not have been killed." Fictitious as it may be, this slogan pretty much sums up the approach organizations of all kinds and sizes have taken towards protecting their physical and financial assets as well as intellectual property. And the more rigid such regimes are, the better – clients, employees, business partners and other stakeholders expect companies and authorities to act in their best interest. Consequently, the quality and success rate of access controls – or more precisely, identification and authentication systems – is often seen as a litmus test for the adequacy of the overarching security architecture.

PalmSecure: the Underlying Technology
For more than a decade, Fujitsu has delivered powerful security solutions based on the company's unique PalmSecure technology. First introduced in mid-2004 and rolled out to major Japanese banks, educational institutions and private enterprises over the following years, PalmSecure is the result of 20 years of intense research in image recognition and processing. The core idea was to create a biometric solution that works even more precisely than fingerprints or iris scans, but at the same time was less susceptible to forgery and more convenient to use. To achieve this, Fujitsu relies on palm vein patterns, i.e. the grid of blood vessels beneath the palm that shows when a person's hand is exposed to the (near-)infrared light of a scanner. This type of recognition offers several key advantages when compared to conventional technologies:

  • Maximum accuracy – Experts have found that, just like fingerprints, palm vein patterns provide trustworthy unique identifiers – no two people, not even identical twins, have the same silhouettes beneath their skin. In the tests that led up to the release of PalmSecure, Fujitsu found that the false acceptance rate among 140,000 palm vein scans amounted to less than 0.00008%, and false rejection rates were at 0.01% - practically 'negligible' values in standard real-world scenarios. According to these findings, PalmSecure is the most precise authentication system of its kind in the world.
  • Extreme reliability – Since veins are concealed under the skin, they are generally less affected by external factors that have been known to seriously hamper fingerprint recognition, in particular skin diseases, injuries, and dry or abraded skin. Moreover, the recognition process only works when hemoglobin is flowing through an individual's veins. In other words, it's impossible to fool the system with inanimate objects such as glue models or – in the case of face recognition – photographs.
  • User acceptance and convenience – While employees, visitors at public events or commercial travelers expect maximum protection, they may find exposure to rigid ID controls uncomfortable, intrusive or offensive. Specifically, such reservations will occur if the controls at hand are typically a part of criminal investigations. For example, many people are unable to stop blinking or sit absolutely still, as is required during iris and retina scans, both when obtaining templates and checking eyes for a match. Likewise, tourists and frequent travelers often regard fingerprint scans as harassment or downright insult. What's more, all of these solutions are also highly inconvenient for the security staff who have to perform the checks, e.g. because equipment must be frequently readjusted or cleaned to yield proper results. By contrast, PalmSecure implements a contactless identification/authentication process that eliminates most of the problems mentioned above.
  • Speed - The registration process for PalmSecure is completed in ten seconds, and the ID validation process takes less than a second; put differently, PalmSecure works faster than any password-based solution and various biometric methods.

To make PalmSecure easier to deploy, Fujitsu has now developed a full-blown solution package named PalmSecure ID Match, which will be introduced in part 2 of this blog next week.

Nils Wittler


About the Author:

Nils Wittler

Head of Embedded Platforms Center at Fujitsu EMEIA


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