What is a Biometric ATM?
A biometric ATM (automatic teller machine) recognizes a customer not by an ATM card or a personal identification number (PIN), but by some aspect of his or her own body. And banks all over the world are starting to implement this kind of technology. In Warsaw, Poland, the bank BPS has set up such ATMs. (Poland has become a technological leader in recent years.)
These machines have also appeared in banks throughout the Middle East, South America and Africa. The first biometric ATM in India was installed by ICIC in 2005, in the state of Andhara Pradesh. Today, biometric ATMs are especially popular in the rural sections of India, where many citizens seem to dislike and avoid technologies involving PIN numbers.
These machines are especially popular in Japan. In fact, millions of Japanese banking customers regularly use the nation’s tens of thousands of biometric ATMs. One bank in Japan advertised this machine with the line “you are the cash card.”
In the past, biometric devices usually scanned one or more of the following items for the purposes of identification:
- palm prints
- the eye, either the retina or the iris
- vocal patterns
- a person’s signature
The latest biometric ATMs, however, examine instead the tiny veins located just beneath the surface of skin. Everyone has his or her own unique pattern of “micro-veins” under the fingers, and reading those veins represents a much more efficient and accurate system than reading fingerprints. According to studies, biometric micro-vein ATMs will only make a mistake one in approximately one million times, which is the same rate of accuracy as the previous champion, a machine that scans irises.
How are Biometric ATMs Effective?
Biometric ATMs are an effective theft deterrent. People can leave their fingerprints on surfaces, and cunning thieves are able in some cases to lift those fingerprints, reproduce them, and use the reproductions to trick machines that read fingerprints. In some gruesome cases, it would also be possible to cut off one more of a person’s fingers and use them to fool fingerprint-reading machines. Such a hideous process would not work with vein-reading technology, though.
Additionally, with a biometric ATM there are no cards that ATM robbers can swipe, and no PIN numbers that they could skim. These ATMs are also helpful in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters. Customers who may have lost their ATM cards during such disasters would still be able to withdraw much-needed cash.
Biometric ATMs have yet to catch on in North America. Part of the reason is that many American consumers are suspicious of the idea of turning over their personal biometric information to a large bank or other corporation. Could this data be sold for the purposes of advertising and data mining? What would happen if this data were somehow stolen? It’s the kind of question that concerns privacy advocates. Another issue is that many banks feel the ATM systems they currently have in place work just fine, and they don’t see the need for costly upgrades in their automatic teller machine technology.
There’s another issue at play. Americans on the whole have become especially concerned with sanitation lately. Look at how many hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed in the last ten years – they’ve been showing up not just in hospitals and nursing homes, but in shopping malls, restaurants, and even churches. Remember the swine flu scare of 2009, during which Vice President Joe Biden said on national television that he’d advise his family to avoid commercial airplanes for fear of germs? Many people in the United States, therefore, would have reservations about using this hands-on technology, especially during cold and flu seasons.
Maybe someday biometric ATMs may gain momentum in the USA but I think that’s a long way off. If you’re considering getting into the ATM business and want more information about the type of ATM equipment that is available today, please visit our ATM equipment page or call us at 888-959–2269.
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