Posts Tagged ‘fingerprints’

ATMs - those amazing telling machines

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

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Automated Teller Machines or ATMs have changed the way people do banking. Before the arrival of ATMs people had to wait for the bank to open, and stand in long queues to withdraw their own money, or just to know the balance on their account. Now ATMs are everywhere, in shopping malls, hospitals, offices and chances are that one is in your neighbourhood as well. Statistics have revealed that as of August 2006, there are over 1.5 million of these smart systems in operation.

Although the primary use of ATMs is for dispensing cash, these intelligent machines can be used for multiple purposes apart from bank-related functions. Since ATMs have a user interface at their disposal, they have been targeted by banks as a sales device, for displaying targeted advertising. Banks have recognized the huge potential for advertising of their own as well as third-party products and services on ATMs. In some countries ATMs are also used for purchasing commodities such as postage stamps, lottery tickets, train tickets, concert tickets etc.

ATMs as other technological devices have also been targeted by criminals to gain access to the cash lying inside these dispensers. Although ATMs are considered to be very secure, they have been subject to criminal attacks, with thieves attempting to get away with the entire ATM. Since ATMs are designed and constructed to be physically invulnerable, thieves resort to using construction machinery to demolish or uproot an entire ATM and steal any cash within. Criminals have also used explosives to blast open the ATM and get into its cash vault.

ATMs are quite secure for transactions, using advanced encryption techniques to encrypt sensitive information such as pin numbers, so that they cannot be sniffed across the network. To overcome this limitation, criminals have resorted to placing fake keypads on the ATM terminals to record the card number and pin. These are then used to gain access to an unsuspecting user’s accounts to withdraw cash or transfer money. High tech criminals also resort to a technique involving the installation of a magnetic card reader and a wireless surveillance camera to observe the user’s pin, and later use a fake card to dispense cash from the ATM.

Banks have resorted to various means to get around this of which the most successful have been the use of biometrics, where a user is identified using either one or a combination of his physical traits. Popular biometric techniques involve scanning of the iris or matching the fingerprints of the user with the ones stored in the bank’s database.  Other security techniques put in place by banks involve the development of intelligent sensors that detect the presence of foreign objects and trigger an alarm. Banks have claimed a 99% success rate, using these techniques.

In spite of a few shortcomings, ATMs continue to be a huge success and have proved to be highly popular thus making them a must for banks. However the future of ATMs remains uncertain. Although, statistics indicate that the numbers of ATMs are steadily on the rise and continue to make their presence felt at gasoline stations and shopping outlets, the advent of a cashless society and home banking can pose a serious threat to these marvellous machines. They also face fierce competition from an increasing rise of point-of-sale systems and smart cards.

Having celebrated their 40th birthday recently, these amazing machines could possibly be made extinct by paperless money in times to come.

How Technology Affects Our Money

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

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money technologyToday’s modern technology offers us a multitude of money management methods. We are constantly offered easier ways to pay at stores and while not as numerous, several options are available with regards to how we receive our money. We’ve always been able to pay with cash and checks as well as several forms of plastic including credit and debit cards. But today, new technologies are available that make paying even easier.

Imagine being able to pay for goods and services with just the touch of your finger! A company called “Pay By Touch” has developed a scanner that is currently being used in hundreds of supermarkets throughout the country. Customers do not have to carry credit cards, cash, or checks with them because they are conveniently able to go through the check-out line, scan their finger print, enter a phone number and select a bank account or credit card to pay for their groceries with. Customers do have to complete a short enrollment process prior to being able to utilize the program. Upon enrolling, their unique fingerprint is scanned, and an encryption program converts it into forty unique points and keeps the information confidential. When the customer touches the special scanner, the forty points are recognized and the transaction can take place easily and quickly.

Another new “contactless” technology called “Blink” makes it possible for customers to simply wave a card within four inches of a reader and within a second or two, receive a tone or a beep when their payment is complete. Nothing exchanges hands with anyone and no signatures or pin codes are necessary. The technology works by a Radio Frequency IDentification (RFID) tag inside of the card. The tag contains information about its owner including account numbers and balances so that it can charge the correct account, similar to the way a debit card works. The cards contain the same security levels as a regular credit or debit card and special coding is used to scramble the customer’s information so it cannot be stolen. This new technology makes paying faster and easier by an estimated 53% in comparison to swiping a credit card and 63% faster than paying with cash. It has become popular with convenience stores and quick-serve restaurants as these stores aim to get customers in and out as quickly as possible.

Another way technology is affecting how we handle our money is in the ways in which we are paid. Today, most employers offer at least two forms of payment: Check or Direct Deposit. Another new technology gives yet a new option for payrolling employees, this is especially important in a nation where 12 to 15 million individuals still don’t have a bank account. Typically, employees who do not have a bank account are forced to go to a supermarket or check-cashing store to receive their pay. These stores usually charge a convenience fee for their services. In the 1990s however, Payroll Cards were invented. Similar in looks to a regular debit or credit card, these cards allow employers to send electronic signals to the cards which represent the amount of money the employee is supposed to receive. The card then works as a “pre-paid debit card”. Utilizing these cards are cheaper that issuing paper checks. It is also safer than a paper check because they are less likely to be lost or stolen and are easily replaced in the event of either of these options. In addition, employers are able to save money because they don’t have to pay for postage or other expenses associated with mailing paper checks to their employees.