Biometric tech making a mark

Soon we'll log on by eye scan, fingerprint -- even butt-print

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Sure, it's cool and easy to pay for stuff with the wave of a smartphone -- but why bother when you could use your face?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/08/2012 (3655 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sure, it’s cool and easy to pay for stuff with the wave of a smartphone — but why bother when you could use your face?

Fast-evolving biometric technologies are promising to deliver the most convenient, secure connection possible between you and your bank account — using your body itself in place of all those wallets and purses stuffed with cash, change and plastic cards.

Tribune Media MCT Jim Barcus / Postmedia News EyeVerify in Lenexa, Kan. uses eye-vein biometrics for password-reset authorization, money transfers, document signatures and voting via mobile devices.

Biometrics is the science of human physiological or behavioural characteristics and it’s being used to develop technology that recognizes and matches unique patterns in human fingerprints, faces, eyes and even sweat glands and buttock pressure. Its potentially a huge time and effort saver, but that’s just the beginning of the technology’s usefulness.

“The basic thing is that you are the person who has to be authenticated for transactions. In addition to carrying other tokens and some knowledge, like your PIN for ATMs — you are you, so why not be used to authenticate yourself?” said IBM researcher Nalina Ratha.

As technologies advance, the use of biometrics in everyday life is shifting from traditional law enforcement and government security to a host of more consumer-friendly applications.

Touch-payment technologies that employ fingerprints as identifiers are already in the works, Ratha said, and despite being hundreds of years old, fingerprinting and its uses are still developing rapidly. In fact, IBM introduced fingerprint scan pads for personal log-ins on its then-laptops (which are now produced by Lenovo Group Ltd.) back in 2004.

The next generation of fingerprinting is being developed to go beyond simple recognition to incorporate pressure sensors that can determine if a device is being touched by a live object or not, which helps with fraud detection.

“Fraud can be done if people design [fake prints] using some moulding and they can create a gummy finger and fool the biometric technology,” said Svetlana Yanushkevich, co-founder of the Biometrics Technology Lab at the University of Calgary.

A New York-based technology company says its patented sweat-gland recognition technology will help add even more security to existing biometric devices that may be susceptible to fraud.

“With most of the biometric technologies, there are ways around most of those technologies — you could lift somebody’s fingerprint and create a Latex copy, you can create a contact lens to copy somebody’s iris and so on and so forth. We think we’ll be the only technology that’s ‘spoof-proof,’ ” said Scott McNulty, president and chief executive of BIOPTid Inc., which owns “the human barcode” technology.

The company’s One Touch cube, set to be on the market within a year, is an external device users can hook up to their computers and mobile electronics to replace passwords for Internet log-ins and banking. The cube reads a personal sweat gland barcode to verify identity from the moisture on a user’s fingertip.

“With one touch, you can log right into your social-networking site, right onto your page. You can instantly purchase something without having a credit card or form of ID,” he says.

In addition to the metaphorical connotation, he trademarked his technology as “the human barcode” because the sweat-gland patterns create a numerical reading like a computerized barcode.

Vancouver-based Face Forensics Inc., a face-recognition software company, is also transitioning its products to more transactional-based uses from their traditional law-enforcement and government-access mandate — the company typically works with governments around the world on e-passports as well as registry systems, such as licence-plate databases.

The move to digital tech for travel is happening in Canada too, which started unrolling e-passports this year.

Travellers who want to avoid long border-crossing lines can sign up for the Canadian Border Services Agency’s Nexus program, which uses kiosks to scan the iris of a person’s eye and verify their identity.

But recognition technology doesn’t end at the hand or face.

Thanks to Japanese researchers at the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology, a car seat is being developed that aims to identify a driver by reading body pressure — technology dubbed “butt biometrics” by some tech press following its introduction last year.

Beyond simple identification, biometric situational awareness tools can help make a judgment call. For example, facial expression recognition is not just about identifying a person, but drawing conclusions about their emotional state.

“There are major expressions that can be linked to emotions, such as neutral, sad, happy, exhausted or hungry, and so on,” Yanushkevich said.

Related technology is being developed for the health-care and biomedical fields.

“Think about the care homes for the elderly. Expressions are important if these facilities are equipped with sensors. For example, the facial expression can tell you if the patient was in pain,” she said.

Thermal monitoring technology has already been used at airports to detect travellers with elevated body temperature that may by carrying diseases, Yanushkevich noted.

Industry players say they hope the trend toward biometrics in consumer products spells the end of the negative stigma associated with the field.

“Biometrics is something that’s used by governments, it’s used by ‘Big Brother’ to keep an eye on us and we want to change that,” said McNulty.

“We think biometrics is something that can be actually used by the people and it becomes their technology that they use to protect themselves.”

— Postmedia News

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