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Sep 29, 2017

Industry insights,

Palm scanning and facial recognition on the tube

London tube stations are regularly the scene of mass queuing at the ticket barriers, while travellers try to find their tickets. Cubic Transport Systems, the US company that are responsible for the Oyster card, are hoping to make this a thing of the past through the use of facial recognition.

This approach would remove the barrier altogether and, by opting for a tracking system that tracks each passenger as they pass through. The technology, which was demonstrated at the London innovation centre, works using a combination of palm vein scanning and facial recognition. Once the traveller has scanned their palm into the device and registered, they will be prompted to add payment details. This means that on any future journeys, the user can simply scan their palm to pay and top up.

Palm scanning is a far more effective method than fingerprints, as although both are unique, fingerprint scanners can easily get dirty through use and stop working. Palm vein scanning uses infrared sensors and so doesn’t require the user to actually touch anything.

The facial recognition would work in a very similar way. Once registered you will be able to use your face as payment for travel and have it charged directly to your preferred method of payment.

Given the fact that there would not be any barriers or gates within these stations, it’s not yet known how the company intends to address the issue of fare dodgers. Early suggestions include using a colour coding traffic light system, that would turn red if a person hadn’t made payment. Alarms and vibrations have also been suggested as a deterrent. 

As with most new technology, there is bound to be some nervousness amongst some people, especially those that don’t feel comfortable with the nature of this type of personal data being held on them.  For many people, scanning their face is going to be one step into the future too far.