Nationwide building society is to use biometric signatures to combat fraudulent transactions and cut the use of paper.
The company has been working on the "multimillion pound" project for two years, and is set to trial the technology at 10 branches early next year.
An electronic pad situated on the counter will record a customer's signature several times and keep a record of it which can be verified when they carry out transactions.
The technology records the "rhythm" of the signature, measuring speed, direction and acceleration at five-millisecond intervals.
Gerry Coppell, technology development controller at Nationwide, told vnunet.com that the trial involving 120 staff had shown that it was impossible to forge a signature just by copying it.
"The trial produced zero cases of rejecting anyone who was legitimate, and zero cases of accepting anyone who wasn't. It also produced five cases which it highlighted as borderline and requiring further investigation," he said.
The signatures will initially be used for opening accounts, but Coppell expects them to be available to all customers for cash withdrawals in a year's time.
The building society is confident that the technology is robust enough for the signatures to be admissible as evidence in court.
"We have not had to prove anything yet as it can only be proven when a test case goes through the courts," explained Coppell.
Iris recognition technology was initially tested, but proved too expensive. Coppell said that he expects the project to achieve a return on investment "within five years" by cutting fraud and reducing the paper flow.
The technology has been developed in the UK by software consultancy Florentis, which designed the verification engine, and MotionTouch, which produced the signature pads and integration software.
Henry Powell, sales director at MotionTouch, confirmed that Nationwide is the first company in the world to try a project on this scale with retail customers.
"This is a unique test, and certainly the banks in the US, Europe and the UK are watching this very closely," he said.
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