TrendBeyond fingerprinting: Alternative biometric technologies advance

Published 13 March 2008

As more organizations turn to biometric technology to help them perform their missions, they show interest in a variety of technologies — vein architecture, retinal scan, facial recognition, and more; these are good times for innovative biometric companies

Biometrics will succeed as one building block of two-factor authorization if it is done in a passive and non-intrusive way. Steady progress on several fronts is being made. Earlier this week we reported that VeCommerce, an Austalian company, was close to deploying a voice recognition system with an unnamed large Australian financial services organization. Carl Weinschenk writes in ITBusinessEdge that such systems have great potential. For instance, a customer service representative at a call center would no longer have to ask identification questions, since the voice of the caller would be matched against the voice in the database. Such a system would be used widely in mobile applications. VeCommerce is not the only voice recognition firm in the news. IT World Canada this week described the combining of voice recognition with biometric encryption. The approach, which was welcomed with positive comments from Ann Cavoukian, the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, is largely based on work being done jointly in Europe by Philips and Israeli firm PerSay.

Weinschenk writes that facial recognition, too, is eceiving more exposure. We reported yesterday that a New York Times story about a small bomb blast at an armed forces recruiting station in Times Square offers a mixed verdict on how much progress is being made. Various types of advanced biometrics — such as retinal identification at a distance or crowd-based facial recognition — are in earlier phases of development. At the same time, vein recognition based on unique blood vessel patterns in the hand already is used by banks in Japan. Last week Washington Technology’s Alice Lipowicz described just how advanced facial recognition is, as motor vehicle departments in about twenty states use it or plan to, and that about 40 percent of drivers nationwide will be processed using the technology when they renew their licenses. She points out that driver’s license photos are a good early candidate for facial recognition because conditions are controlled. She also points to privacy concerns of the motor vehicle initiatives, especially as law enforcement agencies attempt to gain access to the treasure trove of data. Her story mentions an existing facial image database held by the State Department and projects being run by the FBI and DHS.

Many other organizations are now using biometrics. UKvisas, the U.K. visa agency, says biometrics has cut the processing of applications from two days to less than a half-hour, according to ZDNet. In the United States, a company which uses spectral analysis to create biometric fingerprints is set to help catch drunk drivers. Security Park says that the firm, Lumidigm, is supplying technology to the Bernalillo, New Mexico, sheriff’s department under a grant from Community Oriented Policing Services. The goal is to extend the technology from collection of basic biometric data to the detection of alcohol. “It is heartening to see so many advances on different fronts. In the near future, it seems, organizations will have a choice of biometric approaches,” Weinschenk concludes.