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Friday, 2 November 2012

An end to living by numbers?

There's help at hand for those of you who might be little forgetful when it comes to remembering your Personal Identification Number or PIN for you bank or credit card.

A scheme that's on trial in two French towns recognising customers' fingerprints and allowing them to make purchases "biometrically".

I lost my wallet recently.

Well that's not entirely true. I left it on the roof of my car and drove off: not an uncommon practice as far as I'm concerned with my mind invariably floating somewhere out there, seemingly unattached to events happening in everyday life.

Luckily it was found by a couple, although in the meantime I had cancelled my cards.

Another not so unusual occurrence sadly - cancelling my cards or asking for a replacement.

Lost, stolen, pirated - I've been there all too frequently, every time calling the bank or the card provider immediately and then waiting patiently for a new one to be issued.

And every new card of course has meant memorising yet another PIN number - one of the proverbial banes of my life.

I mean, even when the four-digit code is well and truly stamped in the recesses of that lump of grey matter that passes for a brain,  there are still all-too-frequent moments when blankness descends.

Those moments of far-from-blissful solitude at the supermarket checkout for example,  ready to punch in the required number when... nothing.

It's hard to fathom exactly why.

I'm usually great at remembering numbers; rattling off 'phone numbers (apart from my own of course) or birthdays without a problem but PIN - forget it.

With my last, now sadly-departed, card I thought I would be clever.

You know how each of the 101 French départements is numbered more-or-less alphabetically: 01 for Ain, 02 for Aisne, 03 for Allier...all the way up to 976 for Mayotte (don't ask - otherwise the digression will invade the post completely).

Well I thought I would try some sort of mnemonic to remember my PIN by breaking the four digits up into two pairs and linking them to two of the départements.

The lucky couple (?) were Saône-et-Loire - 71,  and Morbihan - 56 ( actually they weren't , but I'm just using them to illustrate how I went about memorising the real numbers).

Except of course I invariably kept muddling them up - and had on more than one occasion to take a look at my mobile 'phone where they were cleverly saved...although I could never remember where.

While I wait for my replacement carte bleue and PIN - 10 working days and counting apparently - Amex has been far faster.

It plopped through the letter box just days after the last one was reported lost, but...Aaaaaarrrrrrrggggggghhh! It too now comes with a PIN.

Another number to forget.

So it was with more than a little interest that the following story caught my eye recently; a new method of paying by card which recognises customers' fingerprints and allows them to make purchases "biometrically".

It's already being piloted in the northern town of Villeneuve d'Ascq and later this month will also be tested in the southwestern town of Angoulême.

All right so it might all be a bit Big Brother for some people out there who don't like the idea  that banks could also potentially have our digital fingerprints on record as well as any other information they already hold.

But, if successful, it'll do away with the need for a PIN and thereby be one heck of an aid for those of us who have problems in a world in which it's becoming increasingly necessary to be "Living by numbers"

Cue for a Eurotrash song from the 80s with a great intro from British DJ Steve Wright when the group, New Musik, appeared on Top of the Pops.

Have a great weekend.

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