Giving cash machines the finger: New Polish network ditches bank cards for vein-scanning

A network of cash machines in the country will see bank users able to withdraw money using just their fingers.
Written by Michiel van Blommestein, Contributor

ITCard, the second largest operator of cash machines in Poland, has announced it will install a network of more than 1,700 devices that use biometric authentication to validate customers' identities by the end of this year. Instead of using debit cards, bank customers will be able to withdraw money from their accounts using just their fingers.

The new network, dubbed Planet Cash, will consist of 1,730 machines across Poland equipped with biometric readers supplied by Hitachi. It will be the first bank-independent network of cash machines that use the finger vein recognition tech in Europe, the company claims.

Rather than using fingerprint readers, the technology scans the vein patterns beneath the user's skin using near-infrared. The idea is that this kind of biometric identification is much harder to fool than traditional fingerprint scanners.

Even the most desperate of bandits ready to cut off their victim's fingers won't have any luck fooling the system, as there won’t be any blood coursing through the veins — so no withdrawal can be made.

These won't be the very first cash machines using this kind biometric identification tech though in Europe, however — or even the first in Poland.

Some banks in the country have already installed limited numbers of machines that allow customers to make withdrawals using fingers rather than cards, while one Polish bank uses finger-vein recognition to allow customers to sign documents at newer client service points.

However, the main difference is that Planet Cash is not bound to a specific bank, meaning any bank can sign up to join the scheme and offer the vein-recognition withdrawals to their customers.

Finger-vein technology is already seeing broader use in Japan, Russia, and Turkey. According to Hitachi, talks are under way to link the Polish network to the Turkish one "to create the world’s first international network of biometric ATMs", although there are no details on a timescale for the project.

ITCard is not planning on sticking to the banks either. Earlier this week, the company announced a deal with the town of Lomza in north-east Poland allowing for the use of public services using biometric authentication.

The programme, which is partly funded by European money, allows citizens to use public swimming pools and public transport.

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