Central Research Laboratory of Hitachi Ltd developed a finger vein authentication system that can be installed on a car steering wheel.
The company plans to exhibit the system at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show 2007 and search for appropriate marketing strategies by researching the response from auto manufacturers and general users.
The company pointed out security and usability as two advantages of installing the finger vein authentication system in a car steering wheel. From the standpoint of security, the main application is theft prevention.
But the company reportedly sees the demand for using it also as a preventive measure against unauthorized use of "on-vehicle credit settlement." Hitachi expects that this type of settlement will be used widely in the future.
In regard to the aspect of usability, the provision of the finger vein authentication system on the steering wheel allows an interior that can satisfy the driver's requirements (seat position, air conditioner setting, etc) and enhances the operability of various kinds of applications (audio equipment, car navigation system, etc). The company intends to provide the system with functions to store and identify finger vein patterns of several people.
Hitachi developed a finger vein authentication system that can be attached on the door handle in October 2005 and presented it at that year's Tokyo Motor Show. According to Hitoshi Ishikawa, deputy senior vice president & GM of Electronic Device Design Division at the Electronic Control Systems Division of the Automotive Systems Group of Hitachi, an authentication system attachable on a door handle has yet to be commercialized.
Applications of the system can be expanded easily when it is installed on the steering wheel instead of a door handle, said Ishikawa regarding the merit of the latest authentication system.
The latest product was developed based on the door handle type system as well as the authentication equipment for use in the automatic teller machines (ATMs) installed at financial institutions. To install the authentication system on a steering wheel, the system size had to be further reduced compared to the model fitted to the door handle or ATM, said Akio Nagasaka, Senior Researcher of Intelligent Media Systems Research Department, Central Research Laboratory of Hitachi, looking back the development. This is because the peripheral area of the steering wheel is crowded with various kinds of instruments such as a blinker lever, and extra space is very scarce.
The main modules of Hitachi's finger vein authentication system are a light source and a camera. To solve the problem of limited space, the door handle system is composed of a camera and a light source mounted on the door panel and the handle, so that an image of the back of the finger can be shot.
This mechanism cannot be applied to the steering wheel type model. Thus, the company developed a new scheme based on the authentication system for ATM.
Hitachi's authentication system for ATMs has a concave cross-section. When performing authentication, the user places their finger on the recessed portion. The light source is located on both sides of the finger and the camera is installed under the finger. The side of finger pad is used for vein authentication.
The problem of this structure arises from the height (thickness) of the equipment, which is dependent on the total thickness of a finger and the camera. No further size reduction is achieved as long as this structure is used.
Therefore, Hitachi replaced one of the light sources in this setup by a camera and adopted a method to use veins on side of the finger for authentication. In the new structure, the image of back of finger (open side of the system) turns out to be brighter than that of the finger pad.
But the company solved the problem by incorporating an image conversion algorithm designed for such shooting conditions.