A group of students at Sweden’s Lund University have concocted a new way to link a person to a payment account. Traditional credit cards are easy to use, but also really easy to duplicate or otherwise copy. Newer PCI compliance rules have made that a bit difficult, with the addition of hardware encryption in magnetic card readers, but some want to get away from cards entirely.

Enter the students, with a method that maps the vein patterns in your hand to identify who is making a purchase. Engadget had a pretty solid article about the method, and it seems like there’s a lot of promise to it. It also looks like there are a lot of steps that could make adoption a bit slower.

So with their setup, you apparently have to give the issuing agency a scan of your hand, social security number, bank info, and phone number, and you’d then be linked. In this instance, the startup the students created would act as an intermediary, meaning there’s one more step between retailers getting your info and also getting your money. If there was a way to set this up directly with your credit card company, I could see it becoming easier down the road. But in its current incarnation, there’s a pretty high barrier to entry.

That being said, I could see this being a great option for Universities or High Schools. Currently, most colleges require students to swipe a card to gain access to dining hall services or buy additional food items. The student (or their parents) can add funds to the account as needed, in case they are hungry and out of Universi-Bucks. In this instance, the payment system is relatively closed, so setting a student up to use it would be relatively straightforward. It does become another vector for contamination, unless the hand scanner is sanitized after every use.

I do enjoy seeing students and researchers trying to create alternative methods to authenticate a user for payment. Hopefully this catches on somewhere.

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