(reproduced with permission from Joe Rice)
The theft and fraudulent use of my credit cards and bank cards in 1983 at
Kodak’s Annesley plant in England led me to invent or perhaps more
accurately to discover vein pattern recognition. I was a young
automation controls engineer and one of my projects involved barcode
reading on film production machinery. I was having problems with the
infra red barcode reader reading through the paper label due to the
transparency of paper at these wavelengths.
Whilst stuck in a
traffic jam on my way home from work musing on the theft and the
technical problems I was experiencing. I was suddenly aware of sunlight
playing across my hands on the steering wheel. Bingo! It occurred to me
that I could probably treat veins and other subcutaneous structures as
an unstructured barcode and thus tie individuals to their bank issued
cards and tokens in a very secure manner.
I started work immediately and built a rough prototype using IR LEDs and
IR sensitive photodiodes and started scanning colleagues during tea and
meal breaks. I also managed to get some sets of volunteer identical
twins scanned and was amazed at the differences in vein patterns and
the repeatability of the pattern from one week to the next. I submitted
the idea to Kodak’s product opportunities panel along with my data. UK
management really liked the submission but Eastman Kodak executives
sought input from biometric experts who said “there would be no viable
market for this technology as signature and fingerprint would
predominate” the proposal was rejected. I asked for and got an official
release for the technology under UK law and signed the invention over
to the BTG (British Technology Group) who took on the development and
exploitation of the technology. However, BTG’s plans had to be put on
hold for a period whilst they sought the lifting of a secrecy order
imposed by the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
After the secrecy order
was lifted I got a little funding from the BTG to develop some better
prototype systems, the first public showing of the technology was at
the Barclay’s Techmart exhibition in Birmingham in 1986. I demonstrated
how veins could be imaged in the hands, fingers and elsewhere within
the human body using IR LEDs and photo detector arrays and discussed
and showed visitors different optical and system arrangements for the
imaging and comparison of vein patterns. In the same year I entered and
won the 1987 Micro User Innovation award. This award was based on the
most innovative use of a BBC Micro computer and in my case it was for
the detection and comparison of subcutaneous veins and structures in
the hand and fingers using optical components and a BBC-B computer.
“My invention was not only driven by the need to protect the possessions of
the virtuous but was also spurred by compassion for the weak. The
colleague who stole my credit and bankcards had a drink and gambling
problem; he lost his job and his marriage and drifted into a dissolute
life following his prosecution.”
I find it disappointing that
nearly 20+ years after inventing vein recognition, vein biometric
manufacturers are still producing products based on my early prototypes
and published work. They are overlooking vein biometry’s single most
important feature, which is:
VEIN BIOMETRIC SYSTEMS CAN BE WORN!
In 1999 at the biometric Summit meeting in Washington DC I outlined my
vision for a biometric future based on the development and
commercialisation of personal worn biometric authenticators -
Biowatches. An article based on this talk was later published in the
journal of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association.
However, despite outlining how these devices could be produced I was a
little disappointed with the lack of progress, so earlier this year I
wrote to existing vein biometric manufactures offering to assist them
in developing personal worn biometric systems.
It may be helpful if I itemise the case for personal worn biometric
authentication systems via a checklist detailing the key components
required for each element of the solution and then examining whether
the requirement has been met. Readers will note that some of the
current vein pattern biometric manufacturers are not too far from
realising my vision for a personal worn biometric system …but they may
have not realised this quite yet!
The public need a simple secure and accurate biometric system that they own
and control themselves and with which they can secure their homes and
possessions and authenticate their transactions and transmissions.
Above all they need a system that is simple to use and failsafe and one
that is easily replaced if lost or stolen.
The biowatch meets
these requirements it is based on a proven and tested biometric trait.
The vein biometric trait has been tested in Europe, Japan and most
recently in the USA by IBG (International Biometric Group) see:
Moreover, the biowatch integrates the three key elements of security:
to provide a comprehensive security solution. The biowatch verifies the
user’s vein pattern upon being strapped to a wrist and responds to
external challenges with a transmitted encrypted access or validation
code whilst worn.
reading modules employ standard IR LEDS and photodiode or CMOS arrays
to illuminate and record subcutaneous absorption patterns of veins and
capillaries. User verification is straightforward, the biowatch
compares a users (constrained) vein pattern with a reference pattern,
and a match initiates the biowatches challenge/response mechanism.
processing requirements are straightforward; the biowatch compares one
watch constrained vein recording with another via image or frequency
matching. Only if this initial comparison fails do more sophisticated
image or frequency matching algorithms need to be employed.
further advantage of wrist worn biometric readers is that biowatches
will be placed on the wrist long before any biometric or cryptographic
verification is required, so there is time available to undertake
multiple image captures and image matching runs, plus the time to
compute and store required access codes. Obviously if the watch is
removed from the wrist all these processes are reset.
manufacture of a wrist worn biometric authenticator is straightforward
and requires only marginal development of current blue tooth and
radio-enabled wristwatches. Hitachi’s wireless health monitoring
wristwatch could easily accommodate a vein reading module
manufactures should consider the inclusion of vein reading modules
within the backs of their radio watches or integrated within the
will note the increased pairing of cell phones and wireless
wristwatches from various manufacturers. This pairing of radio watches
and cell phones provides the scope for intercommunication and
interoperability between the biowatch and the phone plus the near field
and far field biometric authentication of users to wireless delivered
1998 I discussed a potential crypto solution for biowatches with Bruce
Schneier of Counterpane. In an exchange of emails I proposed generating
a set of cloistered private and public keys based upon the invariant
elements of a vein pattern. I wanted to know from Bruce if it was
possible to construct a hierarchy of key pairs and to have lower order
key pairs superseded by higher order keys? Bruce thought this was
doable, but since I did not have any money or backing for the proposal
I left it on the back burner. I did however elaborate a little on this
subject during my talks at the 1999 biometric summit.
The provision of a hierarchy of key pairs insures that a lost or stolen Biowatch is superseded by a new Biowatch and all existing system and transmissions supported or accessed via the old Biowatch will recognise the new. Moreover, the generation of a new public key will disable the use of the proceeding keys
(Public key Infrastructures) coupled with LDAP (lightweight directory
access protocols) enables biowatch users to conduct business and prove
their identity and the authenticity of their digital transactions
anywhere they can access a WiMax, WiFi, bluetooth or cell phone signal.
PKI ensures that people are who they say they are and also
proves that the digital documents they issue and the transactions and
transmissions they digitally sign are tamperproof and unrepudiatable.
this element is not currently in place this level of forgiving,
failsafe crypto is a WANT and is not needed for initial military,
police and security markets. The required level of integrated crypto
can be developed and incorporated in products aimed at financial and
Requirement not met yet ? need the money to fund Counterpane or similar to develop the Crypto elements of the biowatch system.
view is that the current emphasis within the biometric industry on the
numbers of biometric units shipped is fine for other biometric traits.
Vein based biometric solution providers should not get into border
crossing, voting registration and identity card markets. Keep vein
patterns select and distance vein solutions from big government and big
brother projects. Look instead for the niches that liberate people from
crime and the fear of crime. Look for opportunities that make peoples
lives easier and more secure, opportunities that safeguard their homes,
possessions and transactions. But above all make vein pattern systems
fashionable and chic through good design and ease of operation.
institutions should seek to make vein pattern recognition a strategic
market differentiator, by introducing biowatches to their new and
better off clients first. Generate new business from young
professionals and college kids by linking biowatches to cell phones,
and support this initiative via a range of business and personal
financial and security products and services secured by the biowatch.
Above all link the biowatches supported transactions and access
privileges to a range of insured financial and security services that
underwrite authenticate and indemnify the individual and their
should seek to establish veins and the codes generated from vein
patterns as the defacto digital signature for commerce in the 21st
century. Vein pattern are the new biometric kid on the block and
provide a very accurate and secure means of identity verification.
Veins are very difficult to covertly obtain or steal plus have no
institutions should use the introduction of biowatches to grow market
share and drive new business. Biowatches matched to cell phones should
be used as key drivers of new m-commerce business opportunities.
Financial Institutions should introduce new corporate and personal
financial products and services supported by the biowatch. Once the
initial financial and transaction validation market has been addressed
institutions should extend the scope of biowatch supported services
into industrial & corporate, security, safety and environmental
monitoring services. The growth of biowatches will spawn new
opportunities for the introduction of new products and services within
the leisure, entertainment, automotive and domestic security markets.
the biowatch / cell phone combination as a key enabler for attracting
and capturing new m-commerce business and attracting young fashionable
clients to your brand and services.
Requirement: Not met yet ? . However, this requirement will be met either in Japan
Europe or the USA. The opportunity is available now the digital infrastructure is in place. The opportunity is just too large to miss and it needs to be seized…Today!
The biowatch is a world
solution, it provides secure authentication of the individual to their
homes and possessions and underwrites their transactions and authorship
at any open and insecure Internet node or terminal worldwide.
It has been a long time since my brainchild of vein biometry was born back in 1983 and sometimes I despaired of it ever growing to adulthood it had so many detractors, but now with an ever increasing number of manufacturers producing vein based systems its future is assured.
I still want to push the envelope and deliver a biometric future that
goes beyond the mundane. I want a biometric future where individuals
own and control their own biometric systems, a future which integrates
state of the art form and function into the design and operation of
chic, fashionable biometric systems. Systems that secure the new mobile
economy and drive growth, brand loyalty, increased market share and
profitability for the financial institutions that grasp this
opportunity. If you share my vision for this new biometric future and
want the originator of vein biometric technology on your team… please
do get in touch?
Joe Rice April 2007