Biometrics In The Mainstream
 
Biometrics In The Mainstream

Oct 1, 2004 12:00 PM
By Corrina Stellitano

Not so long ago, biometric suppliers tended to provide uncustomized "black boxes" with unchanging components. Now, more biometric suppliers are scrapping the mystery box approach for a two-tier structure, with some companies providing specialized components and others devising complete systems from these targeted elements.

"You cannot be master of everything. Biometrics is a vast field. Taking theoretical science to tangible products requires the expertise of several different focused skill sets," says Wasif Khan, president/CEO of the Houston-based onClick Corp. "In order to bring to the marketplace scalable and reliable products that create value, companies must focus on what they know and do best. Biometrics is definitely a two-tier process, each company embedded within the other's strategy, creating success and value for each other."

Both companies specializing in biometrics and traditional providers of enterprise security systems are increasingly adding bio-Transitioning from an expensive, black-box add-on to integrated system component, biometrics are on the verge of combining usefulness with ubiquity metric modules at the planning stage ! not as a value-added afterthought.

"Rather than being an add-on, biometric products are a designed-in component of access and security systems," explains Bill Spence of Campbell, Calif.-based Recognition Systems. "This makes the use of these products more efficient and intuitive."

Will users notice the shift? Biometric providers say skillful system integrators can ensure that most do not ! instead, they offer complete packages designed for specific applications. Specialized components and systems strengthened by open architecture or standardized application programming interfaces (API) mean more capabilities for users. And in some cases, multi-modal solutions are compensating for factors that reduce the efficiency of individual biometrics.

"Biometric deployments are evolving to integrate the combination of multiple data points in an authentication decision," says Chuck Buffum, president/CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Vocent Solutions. "Too much attention has been paid to error rates; forward-thinking companies combine multiple factors to make better decisions without inconveniencing users. For example, in voice authentication, this can involve combining voice biometrics with other caller data, such as caller location, caller history and challenge questions. It can also involve combining multiple biometrics, such as voice authentication with facial recognition."

Fortunately, each of these paths leads to the optimal destination. "The net effect is the user has more and better choices; and adoption will accelerate for biometrics that add a significantly higher level of convenience and security into everyday applications," says Bud Yanak of Eagan, Minn.-based BIO-key. "This is the key ! adding a security level that is difficult to use will not be accepted by the end-user. It's important to combine convenience and security for wide-scale adoption."
EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE

Providers say the biometric industry is following a traditional ! and reassuring ! path toward maturity, with a few atypical accelerators. Use of biometric systems by government agencies, and in core industries such as banking, healthcare and even travel, has led to more acceptance of the concept of biometrics.

"The commercial uses of biometrics have been growing steadily for the last 10 years or so," says Matthew Bogart of Van Nuys, Calif.-based Bioscrypt. "As individuals become accustomed to using biometrics regularly throughout government systems, the number of applications that will incorporate the technology will undoubtedly expand. It is feasible, however, that areas including access control using biometrically-enabled access readers; labor management using biometrically-enabled time-and-attendance clocks; and cash management using biometrically-enabled safes, laptops, cell phones or PDAs will drive growth."

Khan compares the current phenomena to the introduction of credit cards during the early 1970s. "In general, people then felt that their privacy would be compromised because all transactions could be recorded and analyzed electronically and in real-time. Today, I do not carry cash and hate to do business with entities that don't take my reliable plastic. I think biometrics is a social change that will take time, but adoption of this technology will be the same as that of credit/debit cards, cell phones and the Internet.

"Soon you may see an American Express slogan, 'Don't leave home without your finger,'" Khan adds.

Khan also credits the U.S. government with "creating awareness of biometrics-based technology" using legislation and trial implementations such as the Transportation Security Administration's Registered Traveler pilot program, announced in April 2004 involving specific airports testing a frequent flyer biometric checkpoint.

More severe motivators such as domestic terrorism and widespread identity theft have also pushed the issue of identity to the forefront and reemphasized the importance of protective measures to the general public as well as to the corporate world.

"Identity theft and fraud are on the rise ! the Federal Trade Commission estimates businesses suffered nearly $60 billion in identity theft-related losses last year alone," Buffum says. "Equally significant is the impact on consumer behavior, as these concerns keep customers from using online or telephone transactions and increase consumer fear. Identity and fraud protection has become a competitive differentiator, and biometric tools will be an important way for companies to differentiate their services."

One standout, Citibank, has already begun to market its secure business practices to the public using a comical but effective television campaign. Whatever the motivators, biometric suppliers are ready with a new slate of biometric-enforced tools.
FINGERS

Fingerprint matching, for verification or authentication, has long been considered an effective biometric measure. These days, fingerprint readers are demonstrating previously unseen strengths in cost, size and efficiency, making them prime candidates for more commercialized biometric solutions.

Fingerprint sensors made by Melbourne, Fla.-based AuthenTec now allow tech-savvy communicators in Japan to purchase goods securely using cell phones provided by NTT DoCoMo. Similar sensors arm LG TeleCom cell phones in Korea with mobile banking capabilities. AuthenTec marketers expect demand for cell phone sensors to keep pace with the increasing m-commerce traffic in the Asian markets.

Silex Technology America in Salt Lake City has begun to develop a series of USB device servers offering over-the-network authentication capabilities. New USB internal or external fingerprint readers for printers will also enable "for your eyes only" printing.

Laptops are becoming an even more popular target for biometric protection. New laptop computers by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Fujitsu feature an AuthenTec sensor.

Fujitsu isn't alone. Samsung began outfitting some of its Sense 950 laptops for the domestic market in Korea with an integrated TouchChip fingerprint sensor several years ago.

As for U.S. domestic providers, Yanak says, "Large laptop manufacturers like Micron and Gateway have invested development resources in the integration of these devices, and Dell and others have line item options for adding biometric security to your personal computer. The industry has been looking for the heavyweights to invest effort, and these trailblazers really show that biometrics are fast becoming a regular authentication option in our daily lives."

"Part of the reason these applications have become possible is because the biometric technologies have become smaller, cheaper and more accurate," explains Tom Tombler of AuthenTec.

Silicon sensors have shrunk from the size of a silver dollar to the size of the lead on a pencil, allowing for use in cell phones, small peripherals, or even key fobs which store and verify a fingerprint algorithm and transfer the information wirelessly to readers.

Costs have dropped drastically from more than $200 at some estimates to approximately $5 each.

Yanak explains: "Cutting edge in the fingerprint biometric industry is the advancements in the reader technologies ! from the footprint (to the) reliability of the sensors. Fingerprint reader manufacturers have always been pushed by cost (which was once the inhibitor for widespread adoption). With the increased competition in the market, they continue to drop the cost, but today this cost reduction is not always accompanied by a negative impact on the quality.

"Their shelf life is longer, their ergonomics have improved, and now they are easier to deploy," Yanak continues. "The fingerprint sensors we support can also be used as mouse devices on the smaller handhelds, thus eliminating a traditional mouse."

The new uses make quality an integral issue. "In many industries, if your (fingerprint) was accepted nine out of 10 times, that's OK," Burke says. "But in the industries we're dealing with (including cell phones, laptops, and peripherals), we want to make sure they can get in every time."

To ensure this, AuthenTec uses TruePrint technology to read the fingerprint peaks and valleys etched on the live layer below the outside layer of skin. Product marketers say this approach allows for greater accuracy and acceptance rates.

For biometric providers, the future projected two to three years ago has successfully arrived and new projections are an exciting pastime. "I think we might see a single mobile device that you use to access your PC, clear the airline gate, pass through international borders, enter your home door, garage door, your car door. The technology's going to get smaller and require low enough power to be reasonable," Tombler says.
HANDS

Hand geometry, the use of the geometric shape of the hand to authenticate an individual's identity, was once considered a futuristic technology and now has been called by some the "grandfather of modern biometrics." Today, it is often used in access control applications; provider Recognition Systems' hand geometry readers guard the front doors of 98 of 103 U.S. nuclear power plants as well as being used in multiple Krispy Kreme Doughnuts locations.

Though it has become common to combine some biometric technologies, Recognition Systems recently became the first company to introduce a line of products incorporating fingerprint matching with hand geometry.

Anton Kuip of Nedap Security Management lauds hand geometry as user-friendly and robust, but praises the decision to pair the technology with other data-gathering to improve accuracy. "It can now quite easily be used in combination with a PIN code or password for a more than adequate solution for most applications," he says.

Nedap N.V., based in Groenlo, the Netherlands, recently added another hand biometric measurement system to its AEOS security management solution. The new hand vascular pattern identification technology, provided by Seoul, Korea-based Techsphere, has already been in use for years in Japan and Korea, and practical trials in Europe are slated to begin soon. The technology measures and recognizes the unique vascular pattern on the back of the hand. According to product marketers, this pattern is sufficiently unique to each individual to permit reliable recognition.

David Clayden is CEO of American Biometrics and Security, a Naples, Fla.-based U.S. distributor of the vascular recognition system added by Nedap. He says, "Fingerprint systems have been shown to leave physical residue of the user that can be replicated. Hand geometry readers also require considerable physical contact and can spread bacteria and viruses from user to user."

Vascular pattern readers, Clayden says, are user friendly and require little physical contact with the user, avoiding the risk of residue and cross contamination.
FACE

While facial recognition has sometimes been plagued with concerns that lighting and facial angle and position can hinder accuracy, new solutions may soon battle these perceptions.

Product developers such as Minnetonka, Minn.-based Identix, and Santa Monica, Calif.-based Neven Vision have developed ways to analyze the dermal surface of the skin.

Identix has devised an algorithm called surface texture analysis, which allows the dermal surface of the skin to be analyzed for random features. A skinprint (skin template) is extracted that can be used on its own, or fused together with traditional facial or fingerprint biometric systems. Identix has also developed fusion algorithms that combine facial recognition and fingerprint matching.

Identix says the texture analysis technology can distinguish between identical twins, and generates a 20- to 30-percent increase in accuracy for facial recognition. Neven Vision says its skin texturing can improve the performance of facial recognition by 50 percent.

"By combining iris scanning, facial recognition and skin texturing you have the potential for the best biometric solution," says Neven Vision's Steven Sarfati.

Neven Vision has also developed facial recognition systems for use on personal computers and cell phones.

Using an inexpensive Webcam, the Neven Vision software assesses which individuals attempt to access the personal computer. If the user leaves the station, the system can close his session. If someone is caught by the Webcam reading sensitive information over the user's shoulder, the user is alerted.

Sarfati explains the further uses for this electronic supervision capability. "How do you know the airport security guard is looking at your luggage and not at a pretty girl walking by?" he says. "Using facial feature tracking software we know where he's looking. In this application, the belt could stop moving until he looks at the screen for a few moments. It could be done with a simple Webcam."

By next year, Neven Vision's facial recognition system is slated to facilitate protected cell phone logins.

Next year could also host product debuts from Billerica, Mass.-based Viisage. Viisage acquired ZN Vision Technologies in January 2004, bolstering speed and accuracy in the facial arena, say company officials.

In August, Viisage entered into a cooperative agreement with Siemens AG to further develop three-dimensional face recognition technology. The combination of Siemens' hardware and optics and Viisage's 2-D and 3-D face recognition could lead to definitive results by next year, according to Viisage's John Gore.
VOICE

For voice authentication systems providers like Vocent, demand is spurring growth and product development.

"Voice authentication is seeing tremendous growth as the battle against fraud and identity theft intensifies," Buffum says. "The number of transactions and information requests through the telephone is increasing exponentially, from simple account balance requests to funds transfers and bill payments. However, financial services companies are realizing that PIN numbers and passwords are not sufficient for verifying caller identities. The technology is being used to verify employee identities within many financial services companies today, with a number of consumer-facing rollouts over the next 12 months."

Vocent Confirmed Caller is a voice authentication solution designed to fight identity theft and fraud in large call centers. At its core is Vocent DecisionMaker, voice authentication technology that analyzes voice biometric results, content knowledge, presence information, past behavior and profile data using advanced logic and risk modeling to make real-time authentication decisions.

Another voice authentication leader, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Nuance, recently offered a prepackaged voice authentication product called Nuance Caller Authentication.

"Over time we started to see that people needed similar things," says Nuance's Regina Carriere. "It takes a lot of the mystery out of voice authentication. We've sort of simplified the process of deployment; with a prepackaged system, it's easy to deploy."

Not all clients want a prepackaged system, however. Recently, corporate clients have begun to ask for voice authentication paired with smart card capabilities. Delivery people are asked to present their smart card and then their voice for further verification.

"Voice is getting there," Carriere says. "A lot of companies are looking at it: one, to improve services to their customers; and two, for internal applications, time management and time recording." Service techs out in the field can call in on their cell phones and verify their identities by speaking a pass code.

"Then they don't have to find wireless hot spot," Carriere says. "They can just spend a few minutes reporting their time over a phone. Most of these technologies require hardware and heavy processing. Voice authentication doesn't really require any special equipment. You could put a phone almost anywhere at virtually no cost."
EYES

Eyes can play an important role in establishing one's identity. Iris recognition scans were once considered a futuristic tool but have gained worldwide exposure in access control applications. Now iris recognition is a part of government initiatives such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and TSA's Registered Traveler pilot program.

In response to complaints that scanning only one eye at a time is uncomfortable, Panasonic's iris recognition division recently introduced a two-eye camera called the Panasonic BM-ET300.

The BM-ET300 was awarded the Proof Positive certification from Iridian Technologies, holder of U.S. and international patents on the core concepts and technologies behind iris recognition.

The tamper-resistant unit automatically captures both eyes at the same time. "The user experience, particularly for enrollment, is quite pleasant compared to previous models," says Panasonic's Tim Meyerhoff. "With respect to iris recognition technology, it has always been extremely high cost and/or is difficult to use.' Both of those issues have been resolved with the BM-ET300."

It seems to be a recurring theme in biometrics ! and as industry efforts to resolve the technological "issues" come to light, the technology should become more appropriate to daily security life.

 
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