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Credit card company executives told the 2005 Reuters Banking Summit this week they were developing programs for sophisticated scanning techniques once envisioned in movie plots set in faraway centuries.
Instead of swiping a card at a local grocery or shoe store, payment could be made by a biometric scan of a thumb or eyeball which links up to data on a consumer's bank account, not unlike security measures already adopted by U.S. airports and immigration authorities.
"We're testing several different options ... it's very promising," Visa USA chief executive Carl Pascarella said."
David Nelms, CEO of Discover Financial Services, said the company was also experimenting with fingerprint-based technology as a way of simplifying the transaction process and making it more secure.
An Edeka store in the southwest German town of Ruelzheim has piloted the technology since November and now the company plans to equip its stores across the region.
"All customers need do is register once with their identity card and bank details, then they can shop straight away," said store manager Roland Fitterer.
The scanner compares the shopper's fingerprint with those stored in its database along with account details.
Edeka bosses said they were confident the system could not be abused. The chance of two people having the same fingerprint is about one in 220 million.