There are new biometrics on the horizon, but much of current biometrics research centres on improving the biometrics we have, especially the face, iris and fingerprint recognition systems commonly deployed in the field. These systems are effective and provide good accuracy, but their usefulness is often limited by the conditions under which data is captured. Research is looking for ways to make face, iris and fingerprint biometrics more accurate in more real-world situations.
The Center for Identification Technology and Research (CITeR) directs much of that research. The U.S. National Science Foundation Cooperative Research Center directs collaboration between universities and private industry to improve technologies such as biometrics and identification technology systems. The centre's research seeks to expand the capabilities, and relax the restraints, on current face, iris and fingerprint recognition systems. For example, the centre is developing approaches to enable data to be captured at farther distances, at night, and/or in a variety of weather conditions.
“The short-term impact of the centre's work will be to allow more liberal use of lower quality images for identity recognition,” says Bojan Cukic, director of CITeR's West Virginia University founding site. “Dealing with lower-quality face, iris or fingerprint images, this research will create improved devices and algorithms for identity matching and will work similarly to what we have on the market.”
Mobile biometric authentication gets attention
Face recognition systems are also being improved so that they can work more effectively using a person's profile or an image from above. Currently, face recognition systems require a full face image that may not be available in an uncontrolled environment or from existing surveillance video footage.
Mobile biometrics and recognition are another area of study. For example, a person carrying a smart phone to which the user has authenticated his fingerprint could provide a signal to an access control device from a user's pocket, passively as the person enters a building. The approach could allow authentication of people as they come into a space. “If I authenticate myself to my smart phone and the smart phone to a receiving device, that establishes the trust,” says Cukic. The smart phone could communicate at short range using Bluetooth or at longer ranges using WiFi. “A lot of products will compete in that market in physical security,” Cukic adds.
Eyeprint verification, fingerprint spoof prevention system enter the market
"Dealing with lower-quality face, iris or fingerprint images, this research will create improved devices and algorithms for identity matching and will work similarly to what we have on the market"
Technologies that leverage CITeR research have already made their way to market. For example, EyeVerify, Kansas City, Kansas, provides systems that use eyeprint verification – based on patterns of blood vessels in the whites of the eye – to secure mobile device access.
Another company, NexID Biometrics, Potsdam, N.Y., can sense the “liveness” of a finger touching a reader, thus eliminating the use of fingerprint spoofs to thwart readers. Other fingerprint research includes the use of a touchless device to measure fingerprints, which may improve user acceptance.
Rapid advances but not without challenges in biometrics applications
Biometrics can be used with a variety of data, from video to audio to still images. In the case of video, a single frame can be used for biometrics in the same way as a still image. Generally, higher-resolution images provide better detail for analysis, but the trade-off is that storage limitations (because of larger file sizes) make less data available when it is needed.
“The accuracy of biometrics depends on the quality of data collected,” says Cukic. “The images in a gallery (to which each new entry is matched) are critical to successful biometrics. If gallery images deteriorate, so do the match rates. In many cases, maintaining the database is difficult, especially as the scale of applications increases from tens or hundreds or thousands of people to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands,” he says.