One day soon you could be paying for a stick of gum with your blood. A new mobile credit card payment tech knows exactly who you are and automatically withdraws your money by scanning your veins.
The PulseWallet, shown at the International CES in Las Vegas this week, is essentially a high-tech cash register. Intended as a point-of-sale terminal, it contains biometric technology developed by Fujitsu. Users register a credit card with PulseWallet and then put their hand on the device. Sensors inside the photograph the unique vein pattern in the palm of a user’s hand and connect that pattern to the card, according to a press release.
The idea is you’d just put your hand over the device for a few seconds when you want to buy something, and that would get automatically charge the credit card on file. Users can also track all their purchases on their mobile devices.
The Verge’s Ellis Hamburger tried the PulseWallet recently. “Now my veins are in the system,” he says in a video demo. “I’ll be able to check out with just my hand.” He makes it sound so futuristic and convenient.
But we live in an age of massive hacks on corporations, stolen identities and wholesale electronic theft. I’m not sure how much I’d trust businesses to keep my vein signature safe even if the company says forgery is virtually impossible. A gym I went to once offered a choice between showing my driver’s license or doing a thumbprint scan to check in. I chose to show my license, even if it took longer. Seemed less risky.
To be fair, PulseWallet appears to have some advantages. One would be hygiene because users won’t need to press on anything. Another is security. The company says its device can only recognize the pattern if the blood is actively flowing within an individual’s veins. Given that, I could see such a device being somewhat reassuring to consumers making big purchases.
It still begs so many questions. What if you injure yourself enough to mess up the scan? Or have a prosthetic hand? Or a disability that makes it hard to lift your arms? Plus, given how much trouble there is getting grocery store self-checkout scanners to read barcodes, I picture a lot of hand waving.
The PulseWallet comes out next month and will be free for consumers to use although the price for businesses to purchase them hasn’t been released yet, Hamburger reported. I’m still not convinced that the check-out convenience will be worth it. My veins are my business.