Mark S. Nixon, professor in computer vision at the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, UK, loves recounting a favorite Sherlock Holmes story.
In "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," a distinctively shaped ear gives a suspect away.
Life imitates art as Nixon pioneers biometrics research using the ear, rather than the face or other features, for identification purposes.
Using photos of individual ears matched against a comparative database, Nixon and other researchers believe they have a means of identification as distinctive as fingerprints.
Though ear identification has yet to find use in any commercial application, security will be the best use of the technology, Nixon said in a phone interview last week
In a March 2010 paper, A Survey on Ear Biometrics, Nixon and researchers Ayman Abaza, Christina Herbert, and Mary Ann F. Harrison of the West Virginia High Tech Consortium Foundation and Arun Ross of West Virginia University write:
Humans have used body characteristics such as face and voice for thousands of years to recognize each other. In contemporary society, there is a pronounced interest in developing machine recognition systems that can be used for automated human recognition. With applications ranging from forensics to national security, biometrics is slowly becoming an integral part of modern society.
Using ears for identification has clear advantages over other kinds of biometric identifications, Nixon said.
Once developed, the ear changes little throughout a persons life, providing a cradle-to-grave method of identification, he explained.
Ear identification also could offer an important, non-contact alternative to fingerprints or retina scan. During walk-throughs at security checkpoints, cameras could digitally photograph passersby, comparing their ears against others in a database.
Even among other non-contact biometrics, ear identification offers key advantages. Used in combination with face recognition, ear recognition offers a second point of comparison in cases where all or part of a face might be obstructed, for example, by makeup or some other alteration.
Ear identification trumps other, more-intrusive approaches, Nixon told me. Keeping images of ears, as opposed to faces for comparisons, may raise fewer privacy concerns, he believes.
Watch a presentation from Nixon on the History of Biometrics at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers International Joint Conference on Biometrics in the US in 2011.
What do you think of the use of ear identification or recognition for security applications? Leave your comments below.
The single most important thing that could be done to improve the biometrics discourse would be to re-frame the language used. There can be no such thing as a "perfect" biometric, and I don't mean that in the philosophical sense.
Biometrics always commit two types of error: False Accepts and False Rejects. Because real peoples' biological traits change over time, and because they present differently each time, there's an inevitable tradeoff. The lower the False Accept rate, the higher the False Reject rate, and vice versa.
So what could "perfect" mean? A biometric that never ever confused you for someone else would refuse to recognise you. And a biometric that never ever rejected you, would happily accept others instead of you.
Shawn, am first time hearing about identifying ear as a part of biometric application. So far we had seen about face reorganization, thump impression and retinal analysis for biometric identification. But I don't know whether the ear patters are either unique or different across peoples. But as you mentioned it has an advantage of no need for physical contact with the instrument, so hopefully it's more hygienic.
Thank you Shawn, from that it sounds like unless you make drastic changes to your ear, or have an injury that the system would work for quite a long time. I suppose after someone hits 70 years of age they can just re-scan every few years the way we renew driver's licenses to keep up with those age related changes.
Just for your and everyone else's edification, I thought I'd add some excerpts from the study to which Mark Nixon contributed, "A Survey on Ear Biometrics," for more on how ear recognition is done:
[The] ear biometric system may be viewed as a typical pattern recognition system where the input image is reduced to a set of features that is subsequently used to compare against the feature sets of other images in order to determine its identity. Ear recognition can be accomplished using 2D images of the ear or 3D point clouds that capture the three-dimensional details of the ear surface.
Here's more on the change of ears overtime:
The forensic science literature reports that ear growth after the first four months of birth is highly linear. The rate of stretching is approximately five times greater than normal during the period from four months to the age of eight; after which it is constant until around the age of seventy when it again increases.
Beth, that is what I was thinking would be the most common application for that kind of biometric platform.
Think of how it would apply in London, with all the survalence they have. just randomly scanning ears as they pop up on video and run it against a criminal database. I dont think something like that would really fly in the US, but in England they already have the network and lack of privacy laws to make it happen.
Shawn. As someone who has just gone through the fiasco having to get legible fingerprints for a security clearance, I can tell you this is welcome news. Anything has to be better from the user experience. I had both ink and digital and they were never quite good enough. The whole experience of having to go to a police station is very uncomfortable. Would't it be nice to just say..let me show you my ear!
NRF Retail's Big Show 2015The flagship industry event of the National Retail Federation, Retail's Big Show is an annual event held over four days in New York City. As the world's leading retail event, the Big Show brings together 30,000 retail professionals and vendors from more than 86 countries, and features more than 100 education sessions, 270 speakers and 550 exhibitors. The conference connects retail solution providers with retail executives searching for the most effective solutions, tools and technologies.
LEADERS FROM THE BUSINESS AND IT COMMUNITIES DUEL OVER CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY ISSUES
The Current Discussion
Visual Analytics: Who Carries the Onus? The Issue: Data visualization is an up-and-coming technology for businesses that want to deliver analytical results in a visual way, enabling analysts the ability to spot patterns more easily and business users to absorb the insight at a glance and better understand what questions to ask of the data. But does it make more sense to train everybody to handle the visualization mandate or bring on visualization expertise? Our experts are divided on the question. The Speakers: Hyoun Park, Principal Analyst, Nucleus Research; Jonathan Schwabish, US Economist & Data Visualizer
The hospitality industry gathers massive amounts of customer data, and mining that data effectively can yield tremendous results in terms of improved CRM, better-targeted marketing spend, and more efficient back-end processes. Roger Ares, vice president of analytics at Hyatt Corp., discusses the ways he and his staff use big data.
Charged with keeping track of travel assets, including employees, iJET International relies on data management best-practices and advanced analytics to keep its clients in the know on current and potential world events affecting travel, Rich Murnane, Director of Enterprise Data Operations & Data Architect, told All Analytics in an interview from the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference.
Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer for the Center for Generational Kinetics and keynote speaker at last month's SAS Global Forum 2014, describes how Gen Y professionals are enhancing the makeup of multigenerational analytics organizations.
From analytics talent development to the power of visual analytics, All Analytics found a variety of common themes circulating throughout the exhibition floor and session discussions at the 2014 SAS Global Forum and SAS Global Forum Executive Conference events held last month in Washington, DC.
Talking with All Analytics live from the 2014 SAS Global Forum Executive Conference, Eric Helmer, senior manager of campaign design and execution for T-Mobile, discussed the importance of customer data -- starting internally -- in devising the mobile operator's marketing plans.
The big-data analytics market can be a confusing place. Among the vendors vying for your dollars are traditional database management providers, Hadoop startup services, and IT giants. In this video, All Analytics editors Beth Schultz and Michael Steinhart sit down in a Google+ Hangout on Air with Doug Henschen, executive editor of InformationWeek. Henschen discusses use cases for big-data analytics, purchase considerations, and his recent roundup of the top 16 big-data analytics platforms.
At the National Retail Federation BIG Show last month, All Analytics executive editor Michael Steinhart noted a host of solutions for tracking and analyzing customer activity in retail stores. From Bluetooth beacons to RFID tags to NFC connections to video analytics, retailers must find the right combination of tools to help optimize the shopper experience, streamline operations, and boost revenues.
The days when historical shipment trends and gut feelings were enough to forecast retail demand accurately are long over. SAS chief industry consultant Charles Chase outlines the benefits of pulling real-time sales information from point-of-sale and product scanner systems, then flowing that data into dynamic forecasting tools from SAS.
With today's advanced visual analytics tools, you can stream data into memory for real-time processing, provide users the ability to explore and manipulate the data, and bring your data to life for the business.
Dynamic data visualizations let analysts and business users interact with the data, changing variables or drilling down into data points, and see results in a flash. Advance your use of data visualization with tools that support features like auto-charting, explanatory pop-ups, and mobile sharing.
No doubt your enterprise is amassing loads of data for fact-based decision-making. Hand in hand with all that data comes big computational requirements. Can traditional IT infrastructure handle the increasing number and complexity of your analytical work? Probably not, which is why you need a backend rethink. Big data calls for a high-performance analytics infrastructure, as Fern Halper, a partner at the IT consulting and research firm, Hurwitz & Associates, discusses here.
Redbox's bright-red DVD kiosks are all but ubiquitous these days, located in more than 28,000 spots across the country. Jayson Tipp, Redbox VP of Analytics and CRM, provides an insider's look at how the company has accomplished its phenomenal nine-year growth.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), a seven-brand global hotelier, has woven analytics into the fabric of its operations. David Schmitt, director of performance strategy and planning, shares IHG's analytics story and his lessons learned.