System aims at ID duplicates

Officials from West Virginia, which has pioneered the use of facial recognition

software for issuing driver's licenses, seek to update the state's system

to crack down on the fraudulent use of second and third licenses.

The current system involves an automated search of about 2 million motor

vehicle records to make sure that the person applying for a license is not

already in the system. The new system, in its pilot project phase, will

enable fast matching of faces even if applicants try to disguise themselves.

It uses Visionics Corp.' s FaceIt technology, which "preprocesses" images

to compensate for size, lighting, expression and pose. Then it uses a mathematical

technique called local feature analysis to produce a digital template unique

to that individual.

What makes the system so powerful, the company claims, is that it can

match faces even with changes in lighting, skin tone, facial hair, hairstyle,

eyeglasses and other features that might fool conventional face-matching

systems.

"In the pilot [program], we are trying to satisfy the [Division of Motor

Vehicles] that this technology is effective and that it doesn't generate

a large workload of false matches that can overwhelm them," said John Munday,

president of Digimarc ID Systems, the company that provides West Virginia's

current licensing system and is partnering with Visionics on the new system.

"This technology is optimized for searches against large databases [and

should substantially] cut down on the investigation time."

West Virginia has addressed the situation of people saying they have

lost their license and are applying for a new one when they didn't have

a license in the first place, he said. Now the state is starting to tackle

the issue of identifying people who already have a license and are looking

for another.

Digimarc supplies driver's license systems to 37 states, Munday said,

and if the West Virginia pilot program is successful, he expects the system

will also be taken up by many of the others.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached

at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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