Ears could provide new security measure

Listen to this! Ears could be the new front-runners in identification at Heathrow Airport Security…

We have all heard of finger printing and iris recognition being used instead of the good old passport photo to combat security threats and illegal immigration problems at British airports.

Three different ears as identification with the new Heathrow Airport scanners

Now scientists at Southampton University’s school of electronics and computer science have suggested that our ears may provide an even more reliable means of ID, with an accuracy rate of 99.6%.

Each one of us has a uniquely shaped ear and it is now possible to scan them accurately and compare them with a database of images.

The technology works by mapping features of the ear such as wrinkles, curves, cartilage, and lobes using something called "image ray transform".

Various ears being used as practice on the new Heathrow Airport Scanners

All UK passports now have enough space to hold biometric information, so it would be possible to add details of holders’ ears if this method were to be introduced. Stansted airport has been conducting trials of facial recognition and retina scanning over the last two years but has encountered several problems.

Technology cannot cope with facial expressions or even, in some instances, make up, whilst crow’s feet can also be a major problem.

Ears on the other hand (and no pun is intended here) apparently “age gracefully”. Your ears stay the same shape from birth, apart from the fact that they grow proportionately as you age and the lobes elongate slightly.

Whilst Professor Mark Nixon of Southampton University is very excited about the discovery, the Home Office is being a little more cautious, saying that whilst they welcome new and innovative technology, there are no set plans at the moment to pursue the idea at British airports.

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