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Story Of The Day: Fingerprint Checkouts

POSTED: 12:01 a.m. EST November 25, 2002
UPDATED: 1:41 a.m. EST November 25, 2002

What a pain it is to write a check these days -- all those forms of identification. But now, technology makes it possible to identify customers using their fingerprints. In a flash you can pay for groceries safely.

We've all been there-standing in the supermarket's check out line, digging for identification to prove we are who we say we are. Now there's a better way and it's at the tip of your fingers.

"We use a finger identification system to identify customers for their payment process," Garry Huddleston of Kroger Food Stores.

They do it using "biometrics"-- the science of identification recognition. In this case, with a scan of a customer's unique fingerprint.

"The biometrics of the fingerprint proves they are who they say they are," says Leroy Smith of Biometric Access Corporation.

The scanner makes a digital image of the fingerprint, measures the distance between unique points on the finger, and then stores those measurements.

"We don't actually store a fingerprint image, we actually store a mathematical template of the fingerprint," says Smith.

At checkout a computer matches your fingerprint to a customer database and then calls up your payment information to finish the purchase.

"It speeds up the checkout process and eliminates a lot of the fraud in the check cashing system," says Huddleston.

So far nearly 3,000 customers have signed up for the secure touch and pay pilot system and many say they like the convenience.

"The female customers really like it because they don't have to bring their purse into the store," says Huddleton.

Plus, you know no one else is fraudulently using your bank account -- this is one sale with your fingerprints are all over it.

As a safeguard, the system also allows customers to save information from both index fingers. That way, if you cut your finger, or have one hand in a cast, you can still access your account using the other hand.

For now, the fingerprint scan is being tested in three supermarkets, but developers hope to expand the system to stores nationally.

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