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Sound biometrics tech tells people apart based on ear shape

09 Mar 2016

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NEC Corp. has developed what it describes as a novel biometric personal identification technology that uses the resonation of sound determined by the shape of human ear cavities to differentiate individuals.

The technology instantaneously measures (within about one second) acoustic characteristics determined by the shape of the ear, which is unique for each person, using an earphone with a built-in microphone to collect earphone-generated sounds as they resonate within ear cavities. This unique method for extracting features is useful for distinguishing individuals based on acoustic characteristics and enables rapid and highly accurate recognition (greater than 99 per cent accuracy).

"Since the new technology does not require particular actions such as scanning a part of the body over an authentication device, it enables a natural way of conducting continuous authentication, even during movement and while performing work, simply by wearing an earphone with a built-in microphone to listen to the sounds within ears," said Shigeki Yamagata, GM, Information and Media Processing Laboratories, NEC.

NEC plans to commercialise the technology within FY2018 in a range of applications including the prevention of identity fraud in operations related to safety and security, such as in maintenance, management and security of critical infrastructure, in ensuring confidentiality of wireless communications and telephone calls, and in voice guidance services designed for particular individuals or particular scenarios.

Instantaneous and stable measurement of individually unique acoustic characteristics of the human ear

An earphone with a built-in microphone is used to generate a few hundred milliseconds of acoustic signals from the earphone speaker and to receive the signals transmitted within the ear through the microphone. During this process, a synchronous addition method, which adds and obtains the average of the waveforms of the multiple signals received, is used to eliminate noise from the received signals. It then calculates how the sound resonates within the ear (acoustics). These steps are carried out instantaneously (within one second), enabling a stable and rapid means for measuring individually unique acoustic characteristics.

Measurement of unique acoustic characteristics

Figure 1: Measurement of unique acoustic characteristics

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