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       Extract from THE ECONOMIST - SEPTEMBER 9TH 2000

What is FaceIt®Local Feature Analysis
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I-Cube Face Recognition System design and costing 

50 ways to use face recognition

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 The measure of man

"Biometric" technology, which can recognise people from their fingerprints, eyes or other bodily characteristics, is becoming cheaper and more powerful. Is it about to become ubiquitous?

Being digital
Biometrics come in many forms. The idea is said to date back to ancient Egypt, when records of distinguishing features and bodily measurements were used to make sure that people were who they claimed to be. Modern computer based biometric systems are employed for identification ("who is this person?"), in which a subject's identity is determined by comparing a measured biometric against a database of stored records a one to many comparison. 

An eye for an eye
Another biometric is facial recognition, a technology that has gained ground in recent years thanks to the falling price of computer power. It works by analysing a video image or photograph and identifying the positions of several dozen fixed "nodal points" on a person's face. These nodal points, mostly between the forehead and the upper lip, are unaffected by expression or the presence of facial hair, says Joseph Atick of Visionics, a leading vendor of face recognition technology based in New Jersey. Facial recognition is becoming more widespread, says Dr Atick, because it can exploit existing cameras and existing databases of facial images from driving licences and passports.


Facial recognition is used mainly to verify identity. But if the database of possible matches is kept small, it can be used for identification. Unlike other biometrics, facial recognition can also operate "passively" i.e., without people realising they are being scanned. It can thus help to spot terrorists at airports, football hooligans at ports, and cheats at casinos. Visionics' FaceIt system was also used to combat vote rigging in Mexico, by analysing the database of images from voter registration cards and identifying duplicates where the same person had registered under several different names. A list of invalid cards was drawn up to prevent multiple voting. Similar schemes have been used in some American states to identify people making multiple applications for driving licences or welfare payments.

Searching for the killer app

Dr Atick, a proponent of face recognition systems, has also welcomed the first prototype mobile phones and personal organisers with tiny built in cameras. As it becomes possible to conduct transactions from mobile devices, he argues, it will become increasingly important to be able to verify the identity of the user of a particular device. "I think this is the killer app," he says.

The biometrics industry has done its best to allay these privacy concerns. In many applications, the spectre of an Orwellian central database can be avoided if users carry their own biometrics around on smart cards, as they do with INSPASS. Only if the biometric stored on the card matches the user's handprint is access granted. Similarly, with face recognition systems, verifying an identity can be done by comparing the photograph in a passport with the face of its bearer; there is no need for a database.

Besides, the nightmare vision of vast computers, correlating biometric scans to monitor citizens' activities, assumes a level of technical expertise on the part of governments that is lacking in the real world. John Woodward, a legal consultant who specialises in biometrics, has coined the term "biometric balkanisation" to describe the inability of biometric systems from different vendors to talk to each other something that, he argues, serves to protect privacy.

Scanning the future

Biometrics are sure to grow in importance for both governments and companies. In welfare offices, prisons, high security facilities or when providing access control to networks, the technology can be imposed on users, the security of the entire system is under central control, and the biometric scanners are used by many people, spreading their costs. But the outlook for voluntary adoption of biometrics by consumers is less rosy. In some fields, such as airports or banking, customers may volunteer to use them if they can see a tangible benefit such as faster service, lower charges, or points in a loyalty scheme. Systems that allow consumers to opt in will do much to dispel some of the myths surrounding the technology, and could prepare the ground for wider use.

                                                                

 

 

 

 

 

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I-Cube.   All rights reserved.  Revised: February 18, 2008 .

 

 

 

Using Biometric Security?

How will increasingly sophisticated biometric technologies affect you?

Compared to biometric identification methods, passwords are clunky, insecure dinosaurs. If the burgeoning biometrics industry has anything to say about it, your fingers, face, eyes and even behaviors will be the preferred ways of securely identifying yourself. It’s not just for James Bond movies anymore. This is the new reality. Crude fingerprint identification methods may have been around for 100 years, but what is new is the increasingly sophisticated technology applications and ever-improving accuracy of biometrics.

Let’s take a look at a snapshot of biometrics today. Fingerprint swipers, the most recognized biometric devices, have found their way into laptops, desktops and doors. Entrepreneur Scott Moody uses a fingerprint reader on his laptop. The technology controls access to the computer and keeps data safe. Moody also happens to be the 49-year-old co-founder and CEO of AuthenTec, a leading fingerprint biometrics company that, as you might expect, uses fingerprint sensors to control access to its Melbourne, Florida, offices. In 1998, Moody launched the multimillion-dollar firm with co-founder Dale Setlak, 54.

Fingerprints are a doorway into the wide world of biometrics. Forward-looking biometrics companies are involved in everything from hand geometry and iris scans to voice recognition and behavioral biometrics. Grant Evans, CEO of A4Vision, prefers to face up to biometrics. His Sunnyvale, California, company is pioneering 3-D facial imaging technology. “It started out as bleeding-edge technology, and now it’s cutting-edge, and it’s just entering into the mainstream,” says Evans.

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Biometrics may have started off as technology for governments and law enforcement, but it is working its way into growing businesses and even consumer applications. Turn your gaze to Japan for a moment, and you’ll see a proliferation of mobile devices with integrated fingerprint readers. It’s a sign of things to come in the U.S. Confirming your identity is even more important now that phones are storing sensitive business and personal data and are even acting as digital wallets.

As Vali Ali, distinguished technologist with Hewlett-Packard, says, biometrics isn’t just about security; it’s about convenient security. Users don’t have to remember lengthy or weak passwords, and you always have your finger or iris with you. “The technologies that are going to win are the types of technologies that people want to use rather than have to use,” says Ali. That’s one reason fingerprint sensors are so popular. Swiping your finger- print is a simple, nonintrusive way to identify yourself.

The future of biometrics is in- triguing and complex. Both AuthenTec and A4Vision are businesses thriving in the field. Evans is pragmatic about A4Vision’s prospects. “Someone will probably acquire this company because we’re a piece of the puzzle,” he says. Consolidation is underway in the biometrics industry, and that trend will likely continue for a while. Entrepreneurs interested in getting in on biometrics need to seriously consider the market realities. As Evans says, “Turning a concept into a viable company in this industry is very tough. It’s difficult to compete now unless you have a disruptive technology that is new [and] that no one [else] has.”

Still, that doesn’t mean the pace of innovation will slow down. No technology is fail-safe, which is why multi-modal biometrics is a huge trend for the future. This approach involves combining more than one type of biometric technology. “It’s a very common theme to use multiple technologies to tighten the gap for any security leakage or failures in the system,” says Evans. Biometric devices are getting smaller, more accurate and more sophisticated. They’re also getting more user-friendly. That’s a key feature that will help spur adoption of more advanced biometrics. Says Ali, “You will see multimodal applications which are very pleasing, human-like and much more natural for interactions.”

With biometrics, here’s what a typical day might look like: You stop at the store on the way to your business and purchase a muffin using your credit card-enabled cell phone after identifying yourself with a fingerprint. To get into your office building, you have your face scanned. You access your laptop by scanning your fingerprint and speaking to the computer so it can recognize your voice. While you’re out at lunch, you browse through a database on your smartphone using your fingerprint reader as an intuitive navigation device.

The popularity of fingerprint readers in laptops is just a sign of the changing times. The majority of HP business laptops come with fingerprint sensors, as do laptops in Lenovo’s ThinkPad line. Most things we use passwords,  tokens or keys for today can be replaced with biometrics. Your car, house, office, monetary transactions, computer and mobile devices can be made more secure by embedding these new technologies. “Our product is something that can be virtually ubiquitous in your life,” says Moody. “When we’re old and in rocking chairs, we can say we were part of making this happen.”

Originally published in the November 2006 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine

 

 

I-Cube.   All rights reserved.  Revised: February 18, 2008 .