Vein scanners use near-infrared light to reveal the patterns in a person's veins.

Vein Geometry

As with irises and fingerprints, a person's veins are completely unique. Twins don't have identical veins, and a person's veins differ between their left and right sides. Many veins are not visible through the skin, making them extremely difficult to counterfeit or tamper with. Their shape also changes very little as a person ages.

To use a vein recognition system, you simply place your finger, wrist, palm or the back of your hand on or near the scanner. A camera takes a digital picture using near-infrared light. The hemoglobin in your blood absorbs the light, so veins appear black in the picture. As with all the other biometric types, the software creates a reference template based on the shape and location of the vein structure.

Scanners that analyze vein geometry are completely different from vein scanning tests that happen in hospitals. Vein scans for medical purposes usually use radioactive particles. Biometric security scans, however, just use light that is similar to the light that comes from a remote control. NASA has lots more information on taking pictures with infrared light.

Next, we'll look at some of the concerns about biometric methods.