Manufactured by Fujitsu under the trade name PalmSecure, it's a system that requires no hardware on the user side. If you've got hands and you can wave them in front of a detector, you can use it to make purchases.
PalmSecure is a kind of identification / security scheme that falls under the umbrella of biometrics. Other biometric identifiers include your fingerprint, voice, iris, face, even the shape of your earlobe. Unlike those other measures, PalmSecure is uniquely unobtrusive. It's literally the same gesture required to use an NFC phone wallet or to swipe a credit card, only you don't have to have anything on your person to make it work.
The technology is affordable enough that one Florida school district is already deploying it in its cafeterias to allow students to make purchases. It's also being used to identify patients in New York University's Langone Medical Center, where 250 scanners have been deployed at a total system cost of $200,000.
A patient's hand imaged with near-infrared light
The technology is remarkably straightforward: near-infrared light shines up from a detector, allowing it to image the unique pattern of veins in a person's hand. This pattern is stored as a unique identifier, not an image.
All that's required to turn this system into a reliable payment mechanism is a service provider willing to link that unique identifier to a bank account or credit card. That's not trivial, but if the rise of payment system pioneers like iPhone-based Square tells us anything, it's that it's at least possible.
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