PITTSBURGH (AP)—High-tech security? Forget those irksome digital eye scans. Meet the biometric shoe.
new lab is working to perfect special shoe insoles that can help
monitor access to high-security areas, like nuclear power plants or
special military bases.
concept is based on research that shows each person has unique feet,
and ways of walking. Sensors in the bio-soles check the pressure of
feet, monitor gait, and use a microcomputer to compare the patterns to a
master file for that person. If the patterns match the bio-soles go to
sleep. If they don’t, a wireless alarm message can go out.
part of a shoe that you don’t have to think about,” said Marios
Savvides, head of Carnegie Mellon University’s new Pedo-Biometrics Lab,
lab, which has $1.5 million in startup funding, is a partnership with
Autonomous ID, a Canadian company that is relocating to several U.S.
cities. Todd Gray, the company president, said he saw the potential when
his daughter was in a maternity ward decorated with representations of
different baby feet all along a wall.
ID has been working on prototypes since 2009, with the goal of making a
relatively low cost ID system. Gray said they’ve already run tests on
sample bio-soles, which are no thicker than a common foot pad sold in
pharmacies, and achieved an accuracy rate of more than 99 percent. He
said Carnegie Mellon will broaden the tests to include “a full spectrum
of society: big, tall, thin, heavy, athletic, multicultural, on a diet,
twins and so on.”
wouldn’t speculate on what the system will cost or when it might reach
the marketplace, but each worker at a site would have his or her own
pair of bio-soles.
the third step, it knows it’s you, and it goes back to sleep,” he said.
“If I put on yours, it would know almost instantly that I’m not you.”
idea may seem far-fetched, but scientists have known for centuries that
individuals have unique ways of walking, and in recent years the U.S.
Department of Defense has been funding millions of dollars of gait
research, as has the Chinese government.
Institute of Intelligent Machines is doing extensive research into gait
biometrics, including reports of systems where a floor monitors
footsteps without people’s knowledge.
One expert who is not connected with the CMU lab said the biometric sole seems promising.
must admit I find this news very exciting,” said John DiMaggio, an
Oregon podiatrist who has worked with law enforcement to use foot
information in forensic investigations. While it is too early to fully
judge the CMU research plan, DiMaggio said using feet as a biometric
identification source makes sense.
researchers have noted that gait can vary with injuries, fatigue and
other factors, Savvides said the bio-soles can detect signs of those
bio-soles might also have medical uses. Several papers presented this
month at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in
Vancouver suggest changes in how elderly people walk—such as a slowing
pace or variable stride—can provide early warnings of dementia.
said the technology is less invasive of privacy than eye scans and
other biometrics, in part because the individual data stays inside the
But one group that has followed biometrics and privacy issues said there could still be problems.
biometric capture device is a potential tracking device, just like
every iPhone is a potential tracking device. That’s just the way these
things are,” said Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit that monitors free speech and
said that the bio-soles themselves “might make a person feel a little
bit better” than other security systems and that Gray’s claim that the
system can ID a person within three steps is “pretty impressive.”
But he added that if the project is successful, bio-soles could also be implanted in shoes secretly.
wouldn’t expect Nike to build these in. But it’s potentially covert,”
he said, meaning it could be used to help spy on people.
Source: The Associated Press