As electronic money in its various guises becomes increasingly popular around the world it was inevitable that some enterprising company would take things one step further and it's no surprise to see Japan taking the lead.

Hitachi 's new e-credit system uses an increasingly common biometric technique to verify an individual's identity by scanning the veins in their finger. The finger vein authentication technology isn't new and is in use in cash machines in many Japanese banks , but the key is in linking it to a central database accessible by retailers.

Infrared scanner

That database - managed by credit company JCB - ties the unique patterns in each person's finger veins to their account with the firm. After registering with the system, all anyone wanting to make a purchase needs to do is to touch an infrared scanner in a suitably equipped shop.

Assuming the would-be shopper's finger passes the identity check and their credit is good, funds are released for the purchase. In spite of speculation that any such finger-based system will lead to criminals lopping off people's fingers, Hitachi assures users that any digits devoid of pumping blood simply won't fool the scanners.