The face of security
- By John x_Zyskowski
- Dec 02, 2001
Biometric systems, which use personal characteristics such as fingerprints
or facial features to identify individuals, also are expected to play a
greater role in homeland security.
Joseph Atick, chairman and chief executive officer of Visionics Corp.,
a developer of biometric systems, said the government could build a "network-based
shield" to try to prevent terrorists from gaining access to airplanes or
entering the country at border crossings, for example.
The system would consist of cameras located at key areas that could
capture facial images of people and then compare them with images of suspected
terrorists stored in a database.
But with several hundred million airline passengers per year in the
United States, the system will have to be able to handle thousands of image
matches per second, a scale similar to that of the credit card authorization
systems used today at cash registers in stores.
Because each facial scan produces a file that is compressed to only
84 bytes of data, Atick said, current hardware would be capable of handling
the anticipated volume and still provide the desired 2 second to 3 second
response time for queries.
Improvements still need to be made in the image enhancement and modeling
software, which plays an important role in the system. "The images coming
in from the databases of suspected terrorists are often taken under very
uncontrolled conditions," Atick said. Problems include poor lighting, subjects
not facing the camera directly or subjects with unusual facial expressions.
Certain modeling and enhancement software is already in use to clean
up lower quality images. The challenge now is to use those techniques to
correct live images in real time to increase the accuracy of the matching