We Have the Technology

Article excerpt

The eyes have it

In April 1998 the Nationwide trialled an iris identification system at a branch in Swindon. Regular customers volunteered to have a scan taken of the unique "fingerprint" pattern of one eye. When withdrawing cash from the ATM or asked to provide ID at the counter, these pioneers are identified, via a video camera, by a computer that matches the live eye with its records. Customers are reported to be enthusiastic, not least because they are finally free to forget their PIN numbers.

Smart guinea pigs

The US firm NCR is developing a virtual population, based on Cyberlife's videogame characters, to use as guinea pigs in computer-generated models of new bank branches. The virtual customers will roam the virtual branch, flagging up problems with the layout and services as they go. Similarly sophisticated "neural networks" - digital "agents" designed to evolve and learn from their environments - already provide the financial services industry with powerful insights into people's tastes and lifestyles, allowing firms to develop highly customised marketing pitches.

Corn-fed credit

If new-age customers can be picked out by the next generation of artificial intelligence, they'll be sure to hear about corn cards. Researchers at the University of Nebraska have perfected a material called Mazin, using corn by-products, which composts very well. Given the growth of gift cards in America (pre-charged swipe cards that can be used as debit cards until the charge is exhausted), biodegradable options should soon be much in demand. …