hardware, mobile, modality, palm

Mobile Handset Camera for Palm ID?

KDDI palm authentication app (Ubergizmo)

Well, KDDI might be on to something here with their palm authentication app which runs on smartphones, which is an alternative to facial recognition software and most probably more secure than a fingerprint reader. What makes it even better is this – since it comes with a flash built in, you need not worry about using it in the dark, which is a different case for the face unlock.

Most palm biometrics (for ID management as opposed to forensic applications) use the vascular network of the hand.

This is the first time I’ve seen a palm biometric that uses a photo of a hand as the input.

Though the claims advanced in this very short article aren’t completely coherent (i.e. why can you use the flash for taking a picture of a hand but not a face?), the approach is interesting, especially within the context of mobile ID. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to mobile biometrics has been a mobile hardware chicken-and-egg problem.

So far, speculation about Apple’s future plans notwithstanding, and the short-lived Motorola Atrix, mobile handset manufacturers haven’t been willing to drive up handset costs by adding biometric sensor hardware to a device when there aren’t any applications that use it. Application developers won’t develop applications that can’t be deployed.

Barring a reversal where handset manufacturers add hardware to the devices, the only way out for biometric application developers is to use hardware that is already standard issue on mobile platforms. Besides using the touch-screen for some sort of behavioral biometric application, that means using the phone’s microphone for voice and camera for face, and now, perhaps, palm-based biometrics.

I don’t have an opinion about the viability of palm pattern recognition using cell phone cameras either from the algorithm side or the sensor side, but it is definitely interesting that people are trying to stretch mobile cameras into new applications.

When I mentioned “using the touch-screen for some sort of behavioral biometric application,” this is what I meant: Your finger swipe could become your password.

To log into the new iPad app she made, computer science student Napa Sae-Bae held her hand open, touched her fingertips to the tablet’s surface, then drew her fingers together until they met in the center. Her app analyzed the way she performed the gesture — the speed of her swipe, the angles between each fingertip — to decide whether to let her in.

UPDATE II: A more detailed article on the palm camera app is out today from phones review, video by engadget.

Seeing the app in action, it’s very impressive.

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