Is the password out of date? Or, people think passwords suck. Even though people have witnessed countless cyber attacks in recent years, the most commonly used passwords in 2019 are “123456”, “QWERTY” and “password”. In an era when our lives are more digital than ever before, when an account is invaded, all risks from bank information to health records will be exposed, which is a big problem. This is also a problem that researchers have been trying to solve for many years.
This is the turn of the biometric security system. The biggest promise of biometric technology is to replace the past typed security system with new body based identity recognition. Biometric systems no longer need external tokens such as stored passwords or physical key cards, but identify people through their internal characteristics (such as appearance, voice or way people walk).
But biometrics can go far beyond that. Just as everyone’s fingerprint has been considered unique for nearly 150 years, biometric researchers have also shown many innovative ways to identify users. In addition to the functions of face recognition and fingerprint scanning, there are also a person’s unique “heart lines”, a person’s smell, the subtle skin vibration of his face, throat or chest when talking, and even the shape of his hips. All these have become proof of concept biometric security systems that can confirm the identity of users.
Identify users by ear?
Now, researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo have come up with a new method. Although it sounds strange on the surface, it is actually surprisingly practical. Their new biometric tool, called earecho, uses sound waves to identify users according to the unique geometry of the ear canal. This information is very difficult for a person who wants to deceive others.
“Mobile biometric technology is developing rapidly,” Yang Gao, a graduate student engaged in the project, told digital trends, “However, with many existing mobile biometric solutions, such as face recognition, fingerprint or voice recognition, their templates can be stolen or copied. At the same time, we note that more and more people wear wireless headphones on the street. People are accepting these wireless headphones as a new popular wearable device. We think what we can do is to use headphones to provide more security And hidden authentication solutions. “
The team purchased a pair of off the shelf earplugs and made some modifications. A microphone facing the wearer’s ear canal is added to the earplug.
“When the speaker of the headset plays the sound to the user’s ear, the sound will spread through the ear canal and reflect back to the built-in microphone in the earplug.” Yang Gao explained, “by analyzing the acoustic information of the played sound and the captured echo, which is highly related to the geometry of the ear canal, we extract unique features from the user, and then verify the user’s identity.”
Facts have proved that the prototype of earecho device also has amazing sensitivity and can identify users with an accuracy of up to 95%. This was shown in the test, in which 20 subjects listened to audio samples from spoken language to music. It was tested in various locations, such as shopping malls or streets, and subjects stood or sat in different positions. The demo device can identify users with 95% accuracy in one second, and if it can continuously monitor them for three seconds, the score rises to 97.5%.
Use of earecho
Gao believes that such a solution may be useful in several scenarios. The most obvious is the seamless smartphone unlock. Although Apple’s face ID and other systems work well, imagine if your smartphone is on, you just need to wear headphones to know who you are. Isn’t it great? Especially for people who like running, it’s perfect. In addition, it can be revalidated continuously. This means that you don’t have to unlock your phone every time you take it out of your pocket.
Another scenario might be remote phone based authentication. If you want to have a private conversation with someone, make sure it’s that person. In the deepfake audio world, this may become more important because it is not impossible to simulate a person’s voice in real time. Using technologies such as earecho, you can easily verify the identity of the person you are talking to. By handing over your in ear information to the bank, you can prevent fraud and stop you from taking the time to answer personal questions that prove who you are.
“We are still working to improve the current earecho system, including improving accuracy, covering more topics and testing different types of earplugs in the market,” Gao said.
Of course, we cannot guarantee that the product will be commercialized and put to the market. But a few years ago, the same might have been said about fingerprint scanners, face recognition or voice recognition. All this used to appear only in science fiction and may appear in top secret research laboratories. Today, they are not only a part of our lives, but also a seamless part. We don’t even need to consider them.
Use appropriate biometrics where appropriate
As mark waiser, the late chief technology expert of Xerox PARC, the legendary Silicon Valley research laboratory, said, “the most profound technologies are those that have disappeared. They weave themselves into the structure of daily life until they can’t be distinguished from them.”
So far, this is the story of biometrics. Specifically, we will not give up face ID and use ear canal reading technology in the near future. Just like Google home will never stop recognizing users with voice and listen to their heartbeat instead. However, in a world where our devices can capture all kinds of biometric information, devices will be able to choose the most ideal way to identify users at any given time.
If you wear a smart watch that can track your heart rate, you can collect this information and transfer it to your other devices. If you’re in a car, sensors that can identify hip traits can be very useful. This can be used to cover all biometric information during your commute. And if you wear earplugs, why not use them to simplify the rest of your life?
In our daily life, there are few biometric technologies that have not been measured and evaluated in some way. Knowing when to use these tools and doubling or even tripling the security through the use of several tools will make our future interaction with machines simpler and safer.
Even if it does mean that one day the bank will ask you if you want to submit information about the shape of the inner ear.