The Evolution of Biometric Devices - Part Two

In our last article (please click here to read in full) we began to delve into the history and evolution of biometrics. In this article we bring our chronology up to date and discuss how it has been integrated into the handsets that we know, love and rely on. 


In 1975, as part of its ongoing research and development scheme, the FBI funded scanners that were even more adept at scanning and charting minute biometry, specifically fingerprints. Only these minute details were stored, as opposed to the entire fingerprint, due to the lack of image compression techniques. Yet this spurred the acknowledgment that the minute details logged were enough to identify individual fingerprints, without having the complete image. 


On a slight deviation, in 1977 a patent was awarded for the acquisition of signature characteristics via a digital reader. This was specifically directed towards the considerably more niche area of handwriting recognition, but was nonetheless a highly important development that has many practical applications (albeit in different iterations) today. 


In 1985 a patent was awarded to Joseph Rice that was specific to ‘vascular recognition’. Vascular recognition is the process whereby an individual can be identified via their vein patterns. Also known as vascular pattern recognition, in the modern day this technology has already been used in Japan in ATM machines, as a completely contactless was of identifying the user to authenticate a transaction. 


In 1986, and directly relating to the hypothesis put forwards by Frank Burch that every iris is unique, a patent was awarded specifically stating that the iris could be used for identification. 


In 1985 a base technique for facial recognition was developed known as ‘Eigenface’. Using complex algebra, it was able to determine and solve many of the issues surrounding the development attempts of this technique, and eventually went on to confirm that it could identify a face using just 100 points of reference. This led to the pioneering of the method, and in 1991 it became possible for the first time that real time facial recognition to occur. 


In 1994, following on from the patent stating that the iris could be used to identify an individual, the very first iris recognition algorithm was patented. 


In 1996 arguably one of the most publicised uses of hand geometry technology was used during the Olympics. Athletes were allowed access into the Olympic village using scanners, and this was a major success in a highly public forum for biometric security. 


In 2001 a further public application of biometric security took place at the Superbowl, where facial recognition scanners were used to identify wanted individuals as they entered the stadium. However, this was less successful than the Olympics’ usage of hand scanners. The system didn’t identify any actual wanted individuals, instead misidentifying several individuals. While representing a huge setback for the reputation of biometrics, this brought to the fore public awareness of the technology and also caused discussion about surveillance and privacy. 


In 2004 the Face Recognition Grand Challenge took place, which was set up by the US government and set many researchers specific problems to research and solve in order to expedite the development and reach of the technology. Also in 2004, the very first handset with fingerprint recognition was released: the Pantech GI100 used fingerprints for authentication and even for speed dialling and was a concept considerably ahead of its time, and rarely cited. A raft of other devices ensued which embraced this exciting technology, but it was arguably brought to the fore in its most advanced form in the iPhone 5s, where the main revolution was the quality of the scanner. Since then hundreds of handsets have utilised fingerprint scanners, and more than just as an authentication method, they are now more commonly used to authorise payments from the handsets. 


The first facial recognition in mobile phones was in 2005 in Japan and was invented by the OMRON Corporation. In this version, it was a simple application that could recognise a user, but the practical applications developed very swiftlythereafter. In its modern form it is eternally more advanced than the Eigenface system developed many years before, where 100 points of reference were used. As an example, the iPhone X utilises a system whereby 30,000 dots are projected onto a person’s face to map the features and contours, making it vastly more precise and secure. Just like the fingerprint technology, it is now most commonly used to both unlock handsets and also authorise payments.

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