See Inside December 2011

The Wallet in Your Skin

Forget cell-phone payment systems--just wave your hand to charge it

WHEN STUDENTS in Pinellas County schools fill up their lunch trays in the cafeteria and walk over to the cash registers, they just wave their hands and move on to have lunch with their friends. Schools in this Florida county have installed square-inch sensors at the registers that identify each student by the pattern of veins in his or her palm. Buying lunch involves no cards or cash. Their hands are the only wallets they need.

The Fujitsu PalmSecure system they are using allows these young people to get through the line quickly—wait times have been cut in half since the program started—an important consideration in a school where lunch is only 30 minutes long. The same technology is used by Carolinas Healthcare System, an organization that operates more than 30 hospitals, to identify 1.8 million patients, whether or not they are conscious. It is also used as additional authentication for transactions at Japan's Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

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