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Banking with the blink of an eye

April 23, 1998
Web posted at: 11:24 p.m. EDT (0324 GMT)

SWINDON, England (CNN) -- A bank in England has unveiled an Automated Teller Machine that identifies customers through the pattern of the iris, the colored part of their eyes.

The new ATM technology, being tested at the Nationwide Building Society's head office in Swindon, means that customers no longer have to punch in a personal identification number to prove to the machine that they are entitled to their money.

Rather, the teller machine looks at their iris pattern and compares it to information the customers left on file in a central database.

This high-tech identification procedure relies on a universal human characteristic -- when a baby first opens its eyes, the membrane covering them tears, causing a marking on the iris that remains throughout that person's life.

The pattern is unique. Even identical twins will have differently patterned irises.

To provide information for the database, customers sit in front of a special camera that photographs their irises and converts the pattern to a digital record. The procedure is painless, non-intrusive and doesn't involve shining any form of light or laser beam into customers' eyes.

The system, developed by NCR Financial Solutions Groups and Sensar Inc., will be on trial in Swindon for six months to test customers' reaction and its commercial viability.

But developers say even if the test goes well, it will likely be several years before the machines are commonplace, because the technology is still extremely expensive to produce on a mass scale.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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