If you’ve flown on an airline in the past 12 months, then you’ve more than likely struggled with getting your passport to work in one of the new(ish) facial-recognition systems only to have to then go all the way to the back of another queue to eventually get it checked by a passport control officer. Annoying, right?
Biometric identification is becoming increasingly more common in airports, shopping centres and sports & music venues around the world. But whilst some States in the US have decided to ban the use of facial-recognition technology by law enforcement, it has been revealed that Kings Cross train station in London would be introducing facial-recognition software to identify people on the site who had previously committed an offence there. This revelation sparked numerous debates about our Big Brother culture here in the UK and whether this sort of technology was in breach of our human rights. But, if you thought facial-recognition was bad, check out these other hair-raising ways that the public can be monitored and identified using surveillance technology.
Your heartbeat is just as unique as your iris or fingerprint and can also be used to tell us apart from one another. The Pentagon has developed a laser, known as Jetson, which can be used to identify a person from a distance using a technique known as doppler vibrometry which identifies surface movement on the skin caused by a heartbeat.
How You Walk
Similarly to our heartbeats, the way we move can be very unique to us. Earlier this year the Chinese Police began using a technology known as gait recognition. Gait recognition works by analysing metrics about a person’s walk and then stores them in a national database. Although it’s not as intrusive as the 200m distance of the Jetson laser, Gait software can identify a person based on the way they walk from 50 meters away, even if they are disguised or have their back turned.
Yes, that’s right. Your body odour could be used as a biometric identifier. Your smell contains chemical patterns which remain unaffected by bodily changes, deodorants or perfumes. Although this is something which has been used by police forces the world over for a while now, having computers undertake the task is still a relatively new concept. However, there are still concerns about how well this technology would work in a crowd of people opposed to individual authentication.
In a world where car theft has become a daily occurrence, engineers from the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology have developed a biometric anti-theft system which detects the shape of your rear-end, another unique quality we all have. The seat is fitted with sensors that measure pressure, a reading is then plotted to create a 3D image map of your backside so that anyone who isn’t you, isn’t going anywhere. This is great if you want to avoid your car being stolen, not so great if you want your partner to give you a taxi-ride back from the pub on a Friday night.
In conclusion, it seems the world is gearing up for many different (some more intrusive) ways of monitoring and identifying the general public. But what is clear, whether they are using some for the prevention of crime or not, is that the world is starting to feel a lot like George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.