The Evolution of Biometrics: From Identifying National Geographic’s “Afghan Girl” to Accessing Patient Data With Palm-Vein Technology

One of the best parts of these security shows is the random people you meet and the stories they share with you.

After many scheduled booth visits, Rick Neigher, our director of online sales, and I decided to make some unscheduled booth visits. Fujitsu's booth caught our attention because they were showcasing biometric solutions. "I didn't even know Fujitsu made biometric products," Neigher said.

We met with Charles Yanak, director of product management and product development of biometric solutions for Fujitsu, who told us he has been working with biometrics for years. Before Fujitsu, he was with Iridian Technologies, a provider of iris recognition technology that was used to positively identify the famous photo of the mysterious "Afghan Girl" with the mesmerizing green eyes who was featured on the cover of a 1985 issue of National Geographic. In 2002, the photographer who took that famous photograph tried to find the "Afghan Girl" in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Five women claimed to be the girl. Iridian was asked by National Geographic to compare photographs taken in 1984 with photographs from 2002 to positively match the women with the same girl in the photograph.

After several days, Iridian was able to positively identify Sharbat Gula by her eyes as the "Afghan Girl." The identification has a one in 100 million probability of a false positive.

Today, Yanak works with palm-vein technology with Fujitsu. Recently, their technology, specifically Palm Secure, was featured in several news stories after NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City adopted Palm Secure to link with patients' insurance information and medical history. Once a patient is entered into the system, which only takes a few minutes, every time they visit the hospital, all their information is accessible in seconds during a palm scan.

Near infrared light captures unique blood-flow patterns in the palm. An image is created and converted into a unique patient identifier that is linked to the hospital's electronic health record system.

"Vein patterns are 100 times more unique than fingerprints," said Bernard A. Birnbaum, Md., senior vice president and vice dean, chief of hospital operations at NYU Langone, in a press release. "As a result, PatientSecure provides a safe, secure, easy and fast way for our patients to register for care at the medical center. It not only protects privacy and enhances quality, but will transform the patient experience."

"Since our technology is non-contact, it is non-intrusive, and thus a more hygienic solution when compared to fingering biometrics, which require you to touch a reader, which may have just been used by a sick person, increasing your exposure to germs and disease," Yanak said. "Our contactless readers easily capture a person's palm vein characteristics with virtually no physiological restrictions for the user."

The technology also is non-traceable. By capturing the unique patterns of blood flowing in the veins, it makes the technology harder to spoof when compared to fingerprint, face and iris, which rely on capturing a 'visible' and much more easily copied/counterfeited body feature.

It's really exciting to read a news story and then meet the company and people behind it.

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