Thursday, November 20, 2008

My thoughts on Biometrics / Face Recognition

What's your take on Face Recognition Technology?

Biometrics are biological authenticators, based on some physical characteristic of the human body. The list of biometric authentication technologies in still growing. Authentication with biometrics has advantages over passwords because a biometric cannot be lost, stolen, forgotten, lent, or forged and is always available, always at hand. Last and this year we saw heaps of laptops coming up with fingerprint reader as standard.

Now some of the
Lenovo notebooks are coming with face recognition software, which is actually a reemergence of an old idea. Now that some systems include integrated cameras with much better quality (1.3MP), facial recognition has become much better. In practice this works very well and is extremely fast at recognition.

The included software lets you log onto your Windows account simply by sitting in front of your system. Your face is your password.

Depending on the software used, face recognition uses multiple techniques to identify a person’s face. Some of the more advanced programs use texture mapping in which a person’s skin texture is analyzed and matched. Most however, define nodal points on a person’s face and then use software to mathematically represent those points. Things measured include distance between the eyes, width of the nose, length of the jaw line, or shape of the cheekbones. Together these concatenate a numerical code which is stored in a database for later retrieval.

Biometrics can become a single of failure though. Consider a retail application in which a biometric recognition is linked to a payment scheme:

As one user puts it, "If my credit card fails to register, I can always pull out a second card, but if my fingerprint is not recognized, I have only that one finger." Forgetting a password is a user's fault; failing biometric authentication is not.

Although equipment is improving, there are still false readings. I think biometrics as unique parts of an individual, forgeries are possible. The most famous example was an artificial fingerprint produced by researchers in Japan.

My thoughts are, forgery in biometrics is difficult and uncommon, forgery will be an issue whenever the reward for a false positive is high enough.

No comments: