ID goes 3D

A new smart card combines facial, iris and fingerprint recognition for on-the-spot identity checks.

A global alliance of biometrics experts has claimed a world first with the development of a smart card that can carry out facial, iris and fingerprint recognition and verification.

Surrey-based Omniperception has joined forces with Swedish company Precise Biometrics, Iridian in the US and Sharp Micro-electronics to develop a multi-biometric ‘match on card’.

The technology allows a facial snapshot, iris scan and fingerprint taken on the spot to be compared to the biometric embedded on the card’s microchip. This removes the need for a gigantic national database, one of the key obstacles to a national ID card scheme.

Unveiled at last week’s CardTechSecurTech fair in Las Vegas, the system combines Omniperception’s facial recognition technology with Precise Biometrics’ fingerprint knowledge, Iridian’s digital iris recognition technology, and Sharp’s Java smart card.

The new technology is claimed to be particularly suitable for use with ID cards and passports, as more than one biometric is frequently called for.

National ID cards once again hit the headlines this week when Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair backed their introduction to help in the fight against terrorism (See cover story.)

Omniperception’s technology is aimed at the public and private sectors. But should govern-ments decide to push forward with ID cards it would both address political and security needs and satisfy concerns raised by civil liberty groups, said the company’s marketing director Martyn Gates. This is because the individual’s personal details are stored on the card rather than a national database.

The card is being marketed by Precise Biometrics, which already has a number of customers. A company spokesman declined to reveal their identity.

Away from the politically charged climate of ID card technology, biometrics continues its march into the world of consumer gadgets with the launch of a sensor to enable mobile phones to recognise their owners and lock out unwanted users.

Developed by Japanese engineers at automation giant Omron, the OKAO Vision Face Recognition Sensor is claimed to be the world’s first face recognition sensor that can be used with mobile phones, PDAs or any other portable device with a built-in camera.

This has been made possible, claimed company spokesman Takayuki Nakamura, by both shrinking the core sensor technology and speeding up the face recognition algorithm. As well as enabling users to prevent others making calls, the biometric sensor will also help prevent access to the increasing amount of personal information that is stored on portable devices.

While previous face recognition systems have required a PC, devices equipped with the sensor do not require any additional hardware, said Nakamura. Users ‘register’ themselves with their device’s camera, then log on by taking their own picture. The sensor automatically detects the user and unlocks the unit.

According to Nakamura this identification process takes less than a second, and is flexible enough to recognise the user from a range of angles.

The system is now commercially available and Omron is discussing its application with a number of customers.