Tech Tips: Real-life swipes

Imagine visiting the ASUCD Coffee House, loading up on delicious entrees such as a garden salad from Croutons, or a seam-bursting burrito from TexMex, pulling up to the checkout counter, and instead of desperately searching for plastic cards in your backpack, wallet or purse (ladies, can I get an amen), you simply swipe your finger to pull up your information and pay for your food. Thanks to engineers at the School of Mines and Technology (SMT) working in a new field called biocryptology, this reality might not be too farfetched.

Biocryptology, currently used in products such as fingerprint door locks and retinal-scan identifications, is a real-life manifestation of science-fiction technologies of a bygone era. Biocryptology is a blossoming field of technology comprised of the functional combination of biometrics (the use of anatomical identification) and cryptology (the study of encoding private information). South Dakota’s student engineers are on the way to improving how college students experience and interact with financial transactions by way of the current plastic technology.

This technology is a major step toward decreasing the inconveniences and increasing the security of students. Through the employment of smart fingerprint scanners, SMT is working to eliminate credit card-based shopping on its campus, and eventually, campuses nationwide.

While credit card-based shopping presents its various problems, identity theft being the most daunting and common, this new biocryptic implementation seeks to forestall common security concerns. The new rendering of fingerprint-based shopping takes into account the various hazards that, in the past, have been associated with anatomical identification. Student engineers have developed a sure-fire way to hinder thieves who may attempt to use another’s prints via removal of a finger or limb by developing smart sensors that verify not only an individuals’ prints, but their functioning blood flow as well.

While it may take a few years for systems such as these to become a reality at the University of California, at least you’ll get the chance to squawk at your grandchildren, “When I was your age, we had to use pieces of plastic to buy things!”

EMILY SEFEROVICH can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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