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And now, e-cheques that save paper, but look real

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may soon be a thing of the past. In perhaps a world's first, a team of British researchers claims to have developed an which offers the advantages of the traditional system but cuts down much of the processing and transport costs to the bank.

The hi-tech cheque book looks and works much the same as the one used for generations.

But to write on it, one needs a digital pen which has got a tiny camera attached to it to record any strokes made against millions of tiny dots printed on the surface, say the researchers.

The pen sends the details to the bank of the client via a wireless link. And as the cheques and digital pen work only with the customer's own secure computer hub, they are said to be of no use to a thief, say the researchers.

Lead researcher Dr John Vines said the tech-cheque was developed in partnership with a group of people aged over 80.

"The beauty is that it's safe and cheap electronic transaction for banks, but it's a physical paper-based transaction for the customer," he was quoted by the 'Daily Mail' as saying.

The researchers from York, Newcastle and Northumbria universities have said that they would hold talks with banks. Currently, a digital pen costs 80 pounds but this is expected to fall sharply.

Michelle Mitchell of Age UK said: "Hopefully banks will invest in this kind of innovative design which preserves what many people find invaluable about cheques."

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