A small state college in remote western South Dakota might soon introduce the first technology that can allows shoppers pay by pressing their fingerprints onto a pay pad, rather than swiping a credit card.
Two shops on the School of Mines and Technology campus, 25 miles from Mount Rushmore, are experimenting with a futuristic science called Biocryptology- a mix of biometrics (using physical traits for identification) and cryptology (the study of encoding private information).
Students at the Rapid City school can buy a bag of potato chips with a machine that non-intrusively detects their hemoglobin to make sure the transaction is legitimate, the New York Daily News reported.
Researchers figure their technology would provide a critical safeguard against a morbid scenario sometimes found in spy movies in which a thief removes someone else's finger to fool the scanner.
It requires a buyer to type his date of birth into a pay pad and swipe his finger. Within seconds, the machine will identify his print and check that blood was pulsing beneath it, allowing him to make the buy.
Afterward, the buyer will receive the receipt sent via email on his smartphone.
Fingerprint technology isn't new, nor is the general concept of using biometrics as a way to pay for goods. But it's the extra layer of protection - that deeper check to ensure the finger has a pulse - that researchers said sets this technology apart from already-existing digital fingerprint scans, which are used mostly for criminal background checks.
Al Maas, president of Nexus USA - a subsidiary of Spanish-based Hanscan Indentity Management, which patented the technology - acknowledged South Dakota might seem an unlikely locale to test it, but to him, it was a perfect fit.
"I said, if it flies here in the conservative Midwest, it's going to go anywhere," Maas said.
Maas grew up near Madison, S.D., and wanted his home state to be the technology's guinea pig.