Thermal Imaging: Next Big Thing In Biometric Security

Fingerprints and iris recognition may be replaced by thermal imaging, the next big thing in biometric security, according to a report in an upcoming issue of the International Journal of Computational Intelligence Studies.

Biometrics refers to the identification of humans by their unique characteristics or traits. Biometrics, using fingerprints and iris scans – which are exclusive to each person – are forms of authentication for security purposes.

Biometric security confirms entry under controlled access, but both fingerprints and iris’ can be fabricated, as faux fingerprints can be used to mimic the appearance of the originals and contact lenses worn by an imposter can bypass some biometric security measures.

A team at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, India, explains the pattern of blood vessels just beneath the skin of our faces – which can be easily isolated using an infrared thermal imaging camera – are as unique as a fingerprint and iris, according to Science Daily.

Thermal imaging, also called infrared thermography (IRT), is an example of infrared imaging science. Thermographic cameras can detect radiation in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum (roughly 9,000–14,000 nanometers or 9–14 µm) and produce images of that radiation, called thermograms.

Since infrared radiation is emitted by all objects above absolute zero – based on the black body radiation law – thermography makes it possible to see one’s environment without visible illumination.

The amount of radiation emitted by an object increases with temperature; therefore, thermal imaging allows one to see variations in temperature and define objects in contrast to cooler backgrounds and surroundings.

Humans and other warm-blooded animals become easily visible against the environment, day or night. As a result, thermography is particularly useful to military and other users of surveillance cameras.

Mapping the aforementioned network of blood vessels for instantaneous facial recognition via thermal imaging would be virtually impossible to forge.

Ayan Seal and colleagues have developed a computer algorithm that can analyze the minutiae of the blood vessels revealed by an infrared scan of a person’s face. The thermogram reveals the pattern of blood vessels almost down to the smallest capillary with an accuracy of more than 97 percent, reports The Times Of India.

This high degree of precision would suffice even for high-security applications provided the subcutaneous thermal imaging scan was tied to second or third forms of identity, such as photo ID, security card, PIN number etc.

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