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Biometric Tool Works By Measuring Blood Vessel Patterns

Snowflake Technologies plans to bring to market next year a device to verify an individual's identity by reading vein patterns in the palms of people's hands.

In the not-too-distant future, trips to your bank or office may include a little palm reading. With its first round of funding, Snowflake Technologies is betting that its vein-viewing technology will become the new standard in biometrics.

Using the same near-infrared scan technology developed by its parent company, Luminetx, Snowflake plans to bring to market next year a device to verify an individual's identity by reading vein patterns in the palm. This week, it plans to announce private funding of $6 million. The deal was brokered by Starlight Investments through wealth managers Santi.

The biometrics industry is still up for grabs, and Snowflake CEO James Phillips bets vein viewing can beat out more common biometric methods such as fingerprinting and retinal scans. The industry is expected to top $1 billion in 2006, according to IMS Research.

Each person has a unique vein pattern, and Snowflake will "read your veins like a bar code," replacing security devices such as signatures, keys, and passwords, Phillips says. Luminetx, where Phillips also serves as CEO, sells VeinViewer, which makes it easier for health care workers to inject patients with needles on the first try.

The VeinViewer weighs 130 pounds and is priced at $25,000, but Snowflake's biometrics tool will be a fraction of the size and the cost. Phillips wouldn't reveal his pricing plans but says he'll be competitive with other biometrics tools, which run from $400 to $1,000.

The company is developing several prototypes for the security device. Snowflake will target financial institutions and government agencies such as the CIA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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