Company shows off ID alternative

While government policy-makers debate the merits of ID cards fitted with computer chips and biometric identifiers, a media software company showed off a biometric ID system that it says makes the new cards unnecessary.

A computer-based system that uses facial recognition, voice identification and biometric matching — all in a matter of seconds — could make new high-tech ID cards unnecessary at border crossings, airports, nuclear power plants or other secure facilities, said Rimas Buinevicius, head of Sonic Foundry Inc., a technology company in Madison, Wis.

The system is called Unified Security View, or USV, and it works by creating a "biometric dossier" of the people it checks.

For example, people entering a secure building would stand in front of a camera and speak. The system would compare the video image, voice print and possibly an iris scan with biometric data that has been stored in a database. If the images and voice match, the person is admitted.

The use of three or more identifiers — voice, video and biometric — reduces the likelihood of errors, Buinevicius said.

Such a system would be especially useful for checking the identity of people who need repeated access to secure locations, must cross U.S. borders frequently or enter the United States through air or sea ports frequently, Buinevicius said during a demonstration for congressional staffers Feb. 12.

The system can be linked to FBI, CIA and other watch lists to identify terrorists or others sought by law enforcement authorities. It can also be linked to technology that scans existing documents, such as passports or driver's licenses to detect tampering.

Installing USV technology would be far cheaper than issuing smart ID cards to all adult Americans, Buinevicius said.

However, a drawback is that the system must have data to compare images and voice data against. Therefore, it can tell little about someone who crosses the border or enters a building just once.

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