From fingerprints to faces, the ways by which we can be identified are always growing. Su Wei Ng takes a look at a promising new method of identification.
Privacy is a major concern in our increasingly digital world. One effective answer to these concerns has been the creation of biometric identification methods. Biometrics is the science of using the biological or behavioral patterns of a person for identification. These patterns are unique, owing to their complexity and variability within the population. Biometric methods such as fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, and retinal scanning have become the most commonly used methods to unlock digital devices. Over the last three years, researchers at the University of Buffalo have discovered a new non-contact, remote biometric tool which could be the next advancement in computer security. Its accuracy has been shown to be as high as 98%.
“Its accuracy has been shown to be as high as 98%.”
The identification method developed by the researchers at the University of Buffalo uses low-level Doppler radar to measure the heart rhythm and pulsations. Doppler radar is the same system used by pilots to see bad weather, and by fishermen to see schools of fish. On first use, the system takes eight seconds to scan the shape of the heart, and thereafter it can recognize it very quickly. It can identify a person by their heartbeat from up to 30 metres away. The combination of heart shape and heart rhythm is unique to each person, so this is a very difficult system to trick. However, it is not without limitations. It can fail to function due to random noise, body movements, and it is still vulnerable to somebody standing between the intended target and the device. If the person has heart abnormalities this method is also less effective. While promising, remote identification is still a challenging endeavor.
On the plus side, this study verified that the cardiac scan does not pose any health hazards as its signal strength is over 100 times weaker than that of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The Buffalo-led team plans to shrink the existing cardiac scan system to allow it to be installed onto the corners of computer keyboards and phones in future. The system could also be used in tandem with other methods for identification at airports and other public spaces.
“The Buffalo-led team plans to shrink the existing cardiac scan system to a size which would allow it to be installed onto the corners of computer keyboards and phones in future.”
Individuals and organisations around the world now use biometric identification on a daily basis to deter unauthorized access to their devices, reduce instances of fraud, and to shield against identity theft. Cardiac identification is one of the first methods of truly remote biometric identification. If its issues are worked out, it looks set to become a seamless and secure identity verification method.