Forget fingerprint scanners, Samsung wants to use your veins to identify you

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That’s right, Samsung has patented a smartwatch-based vein scanning technology that would be used as a contactless alternative to fingerprint scanners for biometric security on wearable devices. We haven’t even seen an iris scanner implemented in a commercial mobile device yet, but Samsung is already looking to the future for its next-gen biometric security inspiration.

Samsung’s smartwatch design patent details a wearable that projects a light source onto the back of the hand and uses a side-facing camera to read the structure and pattern of your veins. Called a vascular scan, vein matching is actually already used by the FBI, CIA and hospitals for verification purposes and is considered by some to be more secure than fingerprint scanners.

Vein Matching not only provides more data points to verify than fingerprint readers, it is also a truly contactless biometric system, meaning skin conditions cannot affect the reading. Anyone who has ever had wet, cut, or “abnormal” fingers will know how local skin conditions can affect the accuracy of a fingerprint reader.

Samsung Vascular Scanner Patent Process

Of course, Samsung patents all sorts of weird and wonderful technologies and never commercializes them, so this isn’t confirmation that the Gear S3 will have a vascular scanner to unlock your watch and authenticate payments. But the fact that vascular scanners are becoming increasingly popular for biometric security means the idea isn’t as far-fetched as it might first appear.

Of course, an interesting issue that this kind of technology raises is that Samsung would have to make left-handed and right-handed smartwatches, otherwise the light sources and scanners would have to be placed on both sides of the watch.

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A reversible interface would only partially solve this problem, because then all the physical buttons would be on the wrong side as well as upside down. It might sound silly, but forcing left-handed consumers to wear a watch on an artificial arm wouldn’t be the best marketing ploy. I’m sure Samsung will come up with something if and when this technology hits the market.

What do you think of vascular scanners? Better or worse than fingerprint and iris scanners?

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