Brainwaves To Be Used As Identification
The Daily Times, London
'Pass-thoughts' are the new fingerprints
OTTAWA -- Canadian researchers hope to soon be able to use brain waves to unlock doors and get access to bank accounts.
Some companies are already offering iris recognition systems that many countries want to put into biometric passports. But Julie Thorpe, a researcher at Carleton University in Ottawa wants to take the idea much further.
She says it is possible to do away with key cards, pin numbers
and a litany of other security tools that allow people to retrieve bank money,
access computer data or enter restricted building.
"A user would simply think their password," said Thorpe,
who hopes to develop the first biometric security device to read your mind to
Her idea, yet to be proven viable for commercial application, assumes that brainwave signals, like fingerprints, vary slightly from person to person, even when they think alike.
"Everyone's brainwave signal is a bit different even when
they think about the same thing. They're unique just like fingerprints,"
While people may be tricked into giving up their passwords, smart cards may be lost or stolen, as can biometric templates stored on computers for comparing eye or fingerprint scans, so-called "pass-thoughts" are unique.
A user would only have to think up a different password and save
it on a computer, Thorpe said, describing what would become the world's first
changeable biometric security tool.
The doctoral student is working with leading Canadian security technology researcher Paul Van Oorschot in Ottawa to turn her idea into reality.
Her research builds on other efforts to develop rudimentary brain-computer
interfaces to help paralysed patients control their environment and communicate.
Whereas slight differences in brainwave patterns created difficulties for researchers
trying to build universal tools that could translate thoughts into computer
commands, these peculiarities make brainwaves ideal for security applications,
"You could use a sound or music or childhood memory as your
pass. You could even flash someone an image to help them remember their pass-thought,"
she said. Thorpe must still prove that people can reproduce clear, concise signals
over and over.
"Often, unconscious thoughts, maybe a song in the back of
your mind, may blur a signal.
There's a lot going on in people's heads," she said. Also,
current brain-computer interfaces are not yet up to the task.
The latest electroencephalogram (EEG) hardware, which measures
electrical signals in the brain, consists of a costly bowl-shaped cap dotted
with electrodes that takes time to put on and requires a gel be smeared on the
person's head to bridge the gap between the electrodes and their scalp.
"It's not very fashionable, looks like a polka-dot swimming
cap," Thorpe said, noting how refinements are in the works. afp