Smartphone Biometric Security Apps: The Eyes May Have It
Smartphones contain our life. Contact information for friends, family, and business associates. Access to our Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ networks. Our calendar and call logs. Not to mention our credit card numbers, passwords, and banking information. And with the popularity of bring-your-own-device, corporate data is probably on our phone as well.
While the amount of personal and professional information now stored on smartphones is mind-boggling, too many of us neglect to take the time to implement the basic security measures currently available, never mind if these methods are adequate. However, going with the KISS design principle of Keep it simple stupid!, Kansas City-based startup EyeVerify proposes the easiest way to authenticate whoever is accessing the mobile phone is to look the person in the eye.
Biometrics applications that recognize a person automatically based on the individual's biometric characteristics, such as fingerprints through a device such as a scanner, have been around for a while. For example, before entering Walt Disney World, guests are asked to place their finger in a scanner.
However, in what may well be the world’s first eye vein authentication solution, mobile users may be able to authenticate and access information by simply looking into the mobile phone’s camera lens. According to EyeVerify:
Eye vein biometrics, like palm and finger vein biometrics, leverage the rich and complicated vascular pattern of our body. The pattern of blood vessels is unique to every individual, even among identical twins. Using sophisticated neural network algorithms, these vein patterns can be matched from two different images. What is unique about the eye veins is that they can be imaged with off the shelf camera with no extra lighting. Even a modern day cellphone can be used to capture the images.
The company lists five core steps in the verification process: image capture, segmentation, image enhancement, feature extraction, and matching.
A Consumer Affairs article says the technology “sounds like something out of a James Bond movie but it could be available on your smartphone next year.”
And, according to the MIT Technology Review:
On the user’s end, EyeVerify seems pretty simple (though somewhat awkward in its prototype stage). To access data on a smartphone that’s locked with EyeVerify, you would look to the right or the left, enabling EyeVerify to capture eyeprints from each of your eyes with the camera on the back of the smartphone. (Eventually, EyeVerify expects to take advantage of a smartphone’s front-facing camera, but for now the resolution is not high enough on most of these cameras, Rush says.) EyeVerify’s software processes the images, maps the veins in your eye, and matches that against an eyeprint stored on the phone.
While the security possibilities that eye vein biometrics may offer in the future are intriguing, here is a reminder of security precautions for your mobile phone today, courtesy of the CTIA-The Wireless Association, the nonprofit membership organization of the wireless communications industry: Before It's Gone: Steps to Deter Smartphone Thefts & Protect Personal Info.