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Britain Tests New ATM

April 24, 1998

SWINDON, England (AP) _ Britons now can get cash at the blink of an eye, thanks to an automatic teller machine that verifies identity by scanning the pattern of a bank patron’s iris.

The system started a six-month trial Thursday at a savings and loan in Swindon, 75 miles west of London. When customers insert their bank cards, a camera scans the eye and reads the pattern of the iris, the colored ring.

If the scan matches the previously recorded details of the card-holder’s eyes, the cash flows.

The technology has had successful trials by banks in Japan and the United States, but the launch at the Nationwide Building Society’s Swindon branch marks the first time it has been put in full use, designer John Daugman said.

The trial is to gauge social acceptance, Daugman said _ what he called ``the George Orwell″ problem: ``How do people feel about having their iris being scanned?″

If people aren’t bothered by thoughts of the all-seeing Big Brother in Orwell’s book ``1984,″ they can stop worrying about forgetting their PIN numbers and their accounts should be more secure, the system’s proponents say.

Daugman, of Cambridge University’s Computer Laboratory, said the iris is many times more individually distinct than the fingerprint. The system digitally encodes the eye after reading more than 200 features, he said.

He put the chances of someone’s eye duplicating anyone else’s at less than one in 1 billion.

The technology in the bank machine _ made by NCR _ is already in use elsewhere, including military bases and prisons, he said.

Nationwide’s spokeswoman, Karen Johnson, said the launch went smoothly, with no problems reported by customers.

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