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Nationwide ditches iris and fingerprint biometrics

Still likes electronic signatures though...

By Andy McCue

Published: 23 September 2003 15:34 GMT

The Nationwide building society is continuing with plans to use pioneering biometric electronic signature technology, despite dropping plans to use iris and fingerprint recognition.

Further details of the extension of the multi-million pound electronic signature programme, which began at 10 branches earlier this year, are expected to be unveiled next month.

The trial was initially only for opening an account and a customer in a branch would be asked to sign on an electronic pad at the counter that records the "rhythm" of the signature and measures its speed and direction.

This is then checked against a stored signature taken from several readings of a customer signing the pad. The initial trial using technology from MotionTouch and involving Nationwide staff did not falsely accept or reject anyone and highlighted very few cases that required further verification.

No further details of next month's announcement are available but it is expected that the project will be widened to more branches and to include the verification of cash transactions.

Nationwide has a history of forging ahead with biometric technology and in 1998 launched an ATM at its Swindon headquarters that used iris recognition instead of bank cards to authorise transactions. Iris recognition was also considered for the counter-signing project, while the feasibility of fingerprint recognition in its "usability" testing centre was examined.

But these have since bitten the dust with a lack of business benefits and high costs cited as reasons. For the ATM project the iris recognition alone was 25 per cent of the cost of the ATM, meaning it would not be cost effective for a wider rollout.

A spokeswoman for Nationwide told "Nothing has gone past the trial stage. For the moment it is not something we would take further. It was more the benefits than cost. It is not feasible to roll out throughout the whole branch network."

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