The future of biometrics is in the palm of your hand

biometric palm prints

This is a guest post by Lenny Kontsevich, co-founder and chairman of Redrock Biometrics.

Artificial intelligence researchers and technology scholars are growing wary of facial recognition technology—and that’s a good thing. Over the past few months, public concern has been increasing over the privacy abuse and racial bias of facial recognition systems, prompting calls for tech giants like IBM, Amazon and Microsoft to stop selling this technology to customers—including law enforcement agencies.

Given the situations in which facial recognition is used, the potential harm from inaccuracies or misuse is too significant to ignore. These data-driven systems have several disadvantages including the potential for privacy breaches, surveillance, inconsistent results based on skin color and racial profiling. A recent study conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, found that compared to their performance against Caucasians, some algorithms were up to 100 times more likely to confuse two different non-white people. Asians, African Americans and Native Americans were particularly likely to be misidentified—offering a glimpse of how the technology could lead law enforcement to make decisions based on inaccurate information.

Palm print biometric authentication and identification is an attractive alternative to facial recognition technology that is proven to be more accurate, reliable and safe in our new, contactless world.

Here are some of its advantages:

Culturally Acceptable

Facial recognition algorithms are less accurate when a face is obscured. Because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, it can be considered irresponsible and potentially harmful if someone needs to take their mask off to engage with facial recognition software. Additionally, there are certain cultures that discourage women and others from exposing their faces in public. If they were required to do so, it would make them highly uncomfortable. Palm exposure does not have these types of limitations or safety breaches.

Accuracy

The human palm contains a huge amount of identifiable features, such as skin lines and creases, that are highly unique. Because of this, palm print biometrics can accurately identify people of all races and skin tones—and can even distinguish identical twins, whereas Apple Face ID, for example, cannot. The false acceptance rate (FAR) of palm print biometrics is 1:20 million, making it 20 times more accurate than Apple Face ID (1:1 million).

Privacy

Another major concern of facial recognition technology is that it can be used at a distance to secretly identify individuals—such as protesters attending demonstrations—without their consent or awareness. This potentially hinders Americans’ right to freedom of speech and assembly. Due to these privacy concerns, several U.S. cities have passed bans on the technology.

Convenience

Humans come in all shapes and sizes, and average height differs from country to country. Facial recognition becomes problematic when a person needs to adjust their height to fit within the view of a stationary camera. However, placing a hand in front of a camera significantly expands the range, making it more inclusive and convenient for anyone whose height deviates from the average.

Intention vs. Presence

Another benefit of palm print biometric technology is that it shows intention, while facial recognition simply shows presence. By showing your palm, you intentionally provide your biometrics to authorize a transaction.

No Additional Hardware Required

Palm prints are visible in images captured by commodity RGB cameras, so there is no need for special hardware such as infrared cameras or fingerprint scanners to operate the identification software. When a palm is presented to a camera, it can capture the palm skin pattern in great detail. The biometric authentication software then converts the palm image into a unique signature that is, for all practical purposes, impossible to fake. Unlike modern facial recognition solutions, it doesn’t get stumped by different lighting conditions and requires less light to function than produced by the average device screen. Even dirty hands and scars will not prevent correct matching. As long as a portion of the palm lines are visible, the user can be accurately authenticated in a matter of milliseconds.

Positioned for Adoption in “The New Normal”

One of the “new norms” from COVID-19 will be peoples’ unwillingness to touch keypads, scanners and other devices for authentication and identification. Facial recognition solutions will not function due to the vast majority of the population wearing masks to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Palm print recognition is touchless, fast and reliable. The user simply shows their palm in front of a camera and is immediately authorized for easy and convenient transactions. Companies in many industries are turning to palm print biometrics to solve current and future, identity, security, access and many other challenges we will be facing in the new, contactless world.

The use of biometrics for authentication and identification has exciting possibilities in industries ranging from banking and payments to healthcare, automotive, AR/VR, e-commerce, wearables and more. With the ability to work on nearly any device with a standard camera, palm print biometrics is affordable and easy to implement at a large scale. Once users are enrolled, they are immediately recognized on all other devices, putting the future of biometrics in the palm of their hands.

About the author

Lenny Kontsevich, PhD, is a co-founder and chairman of Redrock Biometrics. He started his career in academia and continued it in Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute studying human vision

DISCLAIMER: Biometric Update’s Industry Insights are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Biometric Update.

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