Magazine article Security Management

In Your Face Security

Magazine article Security Management

In Your Face Security

Article excerpt

Your face may not be able to launch a thousand ships, but one company hopes it will someday launch a software application or let you sail through a security checkpoint. While not as mythical an undertaking, even this more modest goal is proving elusive.

New facial thermography ID technology was unveiled by Technology Recognition Systems (TRS) of Alexandria, Virginia, earlier this year. TRS had a prototype of the system tested at Rome Laboratory in Rome, New York and at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. Both tests have raised performance questions.

According to Rome's Fred Rahrig, that test checked for the occurrence of false negatives in which validly enrolled users were mistakenly denied entry. For the test, 100 people who had been enrolled into the system walked through the system three or four times over the course of a week.

The Rome testing yielded about 85 percent accuracy, meaning that valid users were rejected 15 percent of the time. That's too high for most commercial applications.

Sandia won't provide specifics about its testing of the prototype - performed for the Department of Energy (DOE) to determine whether the technology is feasible for use in access control systems - but an official at DOE says the results were "not good." He stresses, however, that these results may be misleading because "there is no resemblance between the old prototype and the new version" that TRS has developed. The new version, for example, is only about one-eighth the size of the prototype. The official also left open the possibility that DOE will purchase a facial thermography ID system when the technology improves.

Even TRS President David Evans admits that the technology is not quite ready. "We're not there yet," he says, "but we will be." Evans says that TRS has reduced the false reject rate to less than 10 percent in later versions of the system, and that the company is still working on improving system accuracy.

Unlike neural-network-based facial recognition technologies, facial thermography identifies individuals by the face's unique heat emission patterns, which create a facial "signature."

A face's thermal signature is a combination of its vascular system and the shape and density of bone, tissue, cartilage, skin, and other facial features. Because areas of relative heat emission are constant overtime, a person's facial signature never changes significantly, according to Evans. …

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