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Posts Tagged ‘Biometric’

The State Of Surveillance

January 22, 2011 2 comments

Lost in the recent London bombings, along with innocent lives, was any illusion that today’s surveillance technology can save us from evildoers. Britain has 4 million video cameras monitoring streets, parks, and government buildings, more than any other country. London alone has 500,000 cameras watching for signs of illicit activity. Studying camera footage helped link the July 7 bombings with four men — but only after the fact. The disaster drove home some painful reminders: Fanatics bent on suicide aren’t fazed by cameras. And even if they are known terrorists, most video surveillance software won’t pick them out anyway.

Tomorrow’s surveillance technology may be considerably more effective. But each uptick in protection will typically come at the cost of more intrusion into the privacy of ordinary people. For now, the public seems to find that trade-off acceptable, so scientists around the world have intensified efforts to perfect the art of surveillance, hoping to catch villains before they strike.

Research laboratories envision tools that could identify and track just about every person, anywhere — and sound alarms when the systems encounter hazardous objects or chemical compounds. Many such ideas seem to leap from the pages of science fiction: An artificial nose in doorways and corridors sniffs out faint traces of explosives on someone’s hair. Tiny sensors floating in reservoirs detect a deadly microbe and radio a warning. Smart cameras ID people at a distance by the way they walk or the shape of their ears. And a little chemical lab analyzes the sweat, body odor, and skin flakes in the human thermal plume — the halo of heat that surrounds each person.

All of these projects are on a fast track since September 11. Meanwhile, consumer demand is speeding their development by lowering the cost of the underlying technologies. Camera phones, nanny cams, and even satellite photos are commonplace. Biological sensors are flooding into households in the form of tests for HIV, pregnancy, and diabetes — some of which can relay data to a doctor — and soon there will be far more sensitive DNA-based tests. Next up are radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. They’re showing up in stores to help track inventory, and 50 people in the U.S. have had them planted under their skin to broadcast their ID and medical data, in case of an emergency. Read more…

Biometric ATM gives cash via ‘finger vein’ scan

January 10, 2011 1 comment

Poland’s cooperative BPS bank says it’s the first in Europe to install a biometric ATM — allowing customers to withdraw cash simply with the touch of a fingertip.

The digit-scanning ATM, introduced in the Polish capital of Warsaw, runs on the latest in “finger vein” technology — an authentication system developed by Japanese tech giant Hitachi.

The company says that an infrared light is passed through the finger to detect a unique pattern of micro-veins beneath the surface – which is then matched with a pre-registered profile to verify an individual’s identity.

“This is a substantially more reliable technique than using fingerprints,” Peter Jones, Hitachi’s head of security and solutions in Europe, told CNN.

“Our tests indicate there is a one in a million false acceptance rate — that’s as good as iris scanning, which is generally regarded as the most secure method.”

Unlike fingerprints, which leave a trace and can be potentially reproduced, finger veins are impossible to replicate, according to Jones, because they are beneath the surface of the skin.

“And before you ask, no — it doesn’t work with fingers that have been chopped off,” he added.

While the technology represents a step forward in reducing cases of identity fraud, Jones said that this is just one of many factors that have encouraged the Polish bank to adopt it. Read more…