IT sounds like the stuff of a futuristic sci-fi novel.

Barclays has upped the stakes in the battle against fraud by introducing finger vein authentication technology for customers.

It moves biometric identification technology a step beyond finger prints, which the bank said are easier to spoof and replicate.

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The biometric reader will allow customers to access their online bank accounts by scanning their finger, without the need for a PIN, password or authentication code. The scanned finger must be attached to a live body to allow identification to be confirmed.

And Barclays moved to address civil liberties concerns by insisting it will not hold the user's vein pattern, adding that it will not be held in any public record.

The technology, which was developed in partnership with Hitachi Europe, will initially be available to Barclays' corporate banking clients from 2015.

But the bank said there is scope for it to be used more widely in its UK branch network, potentially bringing the technology to millions of consumers.

Hitachi's VeinID is already used by banks for password replacement, single sign on and automated telling machines in Japan, North America and Europe.

However the combination of vein biometrics with secure digital signature technology in the reader is claimed to be a first in the global financial sector.

Ashok Vaswani, chief executive of Barclays personal and corporate banking, said: "This solution is at the leading edge of innovation and is in direct response to client concerns about the threat of online fraud while making our customers' lives easier through its convenience.

"We have shown the technology to a range of businesses and the interest and enthusiasm for the product is tremendous.

"The technology has also been tested by Hitachi for many years and it will be game changing for UK businesses and consumers."

Hitachi's Koichi Nakai said the VeinID technology "offers a safe and reliable biometric solution".