I am planning this and one more story about things I learned at the Inside ID conference in Washington, D.C. and then I will continue to write stories that are part of the Privacy and Trust series. There were more than sixty exhibitors at the conference. Naturally, they all claimed to have *the* key ingredient needed to solve the identity management and authentication issues of the world. I was quite impressed with a number of them and this story will summarize what I learned about four vendor solutions. Three of them offer biometric technology. If one thing is clear from the conference it is that all government entities are looking to biometrics as the way to tie a person’s body to their credentials.
A4Vision (update: acquired by Bioscrypt operating as Morpho) is in the advanced identification and 3D imaging technology business. Recently they announced a collaboration with Dupont that has lead to availability of the world’s first three-dimensional (3D) facial identification products. A4Vision’s 3D technology products perform both verification and identification in real-time. The company claims that their system can take a facial photograph from variable angles and under changing light conditions, including night, accommodate motion and provide a completely passive, non-invasive mode of identification with consistently high accuracy.
These are strong claims but it looks like it works. I stood in front of the camera and almost instantly a three-dimensional image of my face appeared. Once the image is captured, it can be printed as a hologram on an ID card. When you hold the card and move it from side to side, the face turns so you can see part of the left and right side of the face in addition to the frontal view. The picture can then be scanned and a set of image data captured which can then be matched with what is stored on the smart card chip or in a database. This looks like a potentially good biometric technology solution for applications in the commercial, civil and government sectors.
Another company in the biometric space is Viisage. Viisage has focused on the algorithms to create unique digital representations based on a photograph of a person’s face. The technology, originally developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), uses “eigenfaces,” which map characteristics of a person’s face into a multi-dimensional face space. Since the MIT days, Viisage has invested 100 person years of research and development. Viisage face-recognition technology is being used by state governments on driver licenses and in various governments outside of the U.S.
Is your credit card being skimmed? A restaurant waiter or gasoline station attendant places your credit card into a device called a skimmer which extracts your name, account number and other identifying information from the magnetic stripe on the back side of the card. They then use that information to create a phony card. Unfortunately, skimming devices have become very small, easy to use, and easy to buy over the Internet — no questions asked.
Magtek has stepped in to help credit card companies solve the skimming problem. The solution is based on the fact that no two credit card magnetic stripes are identical. Each card has a unique pattern of magnetic particles that make up the stripe. The stripe’s random pattern of magnetic particles produces a unique “fingerprint”. Magtek calls this “Magneprint”. The Magneprint card reader captures the “fingerprint” and compares it to that of the original card.
What this all means is that the data from a mag strip can be copied to another credit card; however, the microscopic layout of the particles that make up the mag stripe can not be copied. The demonstration I saw of this captured the card data and fingerprint, transmitted it over the Internet to a server in Philadelphia, and responded with the approval or denial almost instantly.
The Iris Recognition Products group from OKI America, Inc. showed a very impressive iris scanner. The iris is the “contractile membrane of a pupil” of the human eye. The iris’s random patterns are unique to each individual. The iris recognition technology appears to offer a highly precise method to identify people by using the unique patterns of the iris. Most people I talked to agreed that iris scanning is the most accurate of all the biometric technologies currently available. An added benefit is that the scan does not require physical contact with the equipment.
Even though the iris scanner uses a harmless light that is similar to the red light emitting diodes that used to grace our calculators, I think the issue will be perception. Just like some people fear using a cell phone, I think many people will fear anything that requies them to subject their eyes to being scanned. I have complete confidence in this technology and I hope I am wrong about the perception being a limiter of adoption.