New lab working on security shoe sole to ID people

Jul 23, 2012

High-tech security? Forget those irksome digital eye scans. Meet the biometric shoe.

A new lab is working to perfect special shoe insoles that can help monitor access to high-security areas, like or special military bases.

The concept is based on research that shows each person has unique feet, and ways of walking. Sensors in the bio-soles check the pressure of feet, monitor gait, and use a to compare the patterns to a master file for that person. If the patterns match the bio-soles go to sleep. If they don't, a wireless alarm message can go out.

"It's part of a shoe that you don't have to think about," said Marios Savvides, head of Carnegie Mellon University's new Pedo-Biometrics Lab, in Pittsburgh.

The lab, which has $1.5 million in startup funding, is a partnership with Autonomous ID, a Canadian company that is relocating to several U.S. cities. Todd Gray, the company president, said he saw the potential when his daughter was in a maternity ward decorated with representations of different baby feet all along a wall.

Autonomous ID has been working on prototypes since 2009, with the goal of making a relatively low cost ID system. Gray said they've already run tests on sample bio-soles, which are no thicker than a common foot pad sold in pharmacies, and achieved an of more than 99 percent. He said Carnegie Mellon will broaden the tests to include "a full spectrum of society: big, tall, thin, heavy, athletic, multicultural, on a diet, twins and so on."

Gray wouldn't speculate on what the system will cost or when it might reach the marketplace, but each worker at a site would have his or her own pair of bio-soles.

"Within the third step, it knows it's you, and it goes back to sleep," he said. "If I put on yours, it would know almost instantly that I'm not you."

The idea may seem far-fetched, but scientists have known for centuries that individuals have unique ways of walking, and in recent years the U.S. Department of Defense has been funding millions of dollars of gait research, as has the Chinese government.

The Institute of Intelligent Machines is doing extensive research into gait biometrics, including reports of systems where a floor monitors footsteps without people's knowledge.

One expert who is not connected with the CMU lab said the biometric sole seems promising.

"I must admit I find this news very exciting," said John DiMaggio, an Oregon podiatrist who has worked with law enforcement to use foot information in forensic investigations. While it is too early to fully judge the CMU research plan, DiMaggio said using feet as a biometric identification source makes sense.

While researchers have noted that gait can vary with injuries, fatigue and other factors, Savvides said the bio-soles can detect signs of those things, too.

The bio-soles might also have medical uses. Several papers presented this month at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Vancouver suggest changes in how elderly people walk - such as a slowing pace or variable stride - can provide early warnings of dementia.

Gray said the technology is less invasive of privacy than eye scans and other biometrics, in part because the individual data stays inside the bio-soles.

But one group that has followed biometrics and privacy issues said there could still be problems.

"Any biometric capture device is a potential tracking device, just like every iPhone is a potential tracking device. That's just the way these things are," said Lee Tien, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit that monitors free speech and privacy issues.

Tien said that the bio-soles themselves "might make a person feel a little bit better" than other security systems and that Gray's claim that the system can ID a person within three steps is "pretty impressive."

But he added that if the project is successful, bio-soles could also be implanted in shoes secretly.

"I wouldn't expect Nike to build these in. But it's potentially covert," he said, meaning it could be used to help spy on people.

Explore further: Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers advance biometric security

Jun 21, 2012

Researchers in the Biometric Technologies Laboratory at the University of Calgary have developed a way for security systems to combine different biometric measurements—such as eye colour, face shape or fingerprints—and ...

Tell me by the way I walk

Jun 09, 2008

Biometrics is commonly associated retinal scans, iris recognition and DNA databases, but researchers in India are working on another form of biometrics that could allow law enforcement agencies and airport security to recognize ...

Shoes: A treatment for osteoarthritis in the knees?

Mar 24, 2010

Flip-flops and sneakers with flexible soles are easier on the knees than clogs or even special walking shoes, a study by Rush University Medical Center has found. And that's important, because loading on the knee joints ...

IDair has a fingerprint scanner from standoff distance

Jun 24, 2012

Researchers are exploring better designs in biometrics to meet business and government demands for reliable identification and verification tools. Out of the many biometric technologies that continue to be ...

Recommended for you

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

15 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Neuroscientist's idea wins new-toy award

Apr 15, 2014

When he was a child, Robijanto Soetedjo used to play with his electrically powered toys for a while and then, when he got bored, take them apart - much to the consternation of his parents.

Land Rover demos invisible bonnet / car hood (w/ video)

Apr 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —Land Rover has released a video demonstrating a part of its Discover Vision Concept—the invisible "bonnet" or as it's known in the U.S. the "hood" of the car. It's a concept the automaker ...

Visions of 1964 World's Fair didn't all come true

Apr 12, 2014

Video phone calls? Yeah, we do that. Asking computers for information? Sure, several times a day. Colonies on the moon and jet packs as a mode of everyday transportation. OK, maybe not.

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Squirrel
not rated yet Jul 23, 2012
Why bother with shoes--much the same biometric information could be obtained from floor sensors and optical tracking. But unlike "biometric shoes" this would not create of risk of thief that might be used to blackmail the plant owners by making it inaccessible/inoperable.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jul 23, 2012
much the same biometric information could be obtained from floor sensors

Yep. And it's actually not a new concept.

Nightingale floors were used in some castles and shrines in Japan as security devices
http://en.wikiped...le_floor

More news stories

Freight train industry to miss safety deadline

The U.S. freight railroad industry says only one-fifth of its track will be equipped with mandatory safety technology to prevent most collisions and derailments by the deadline set by Congress.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Ebola virus in Africa outbreak is a new strain

The Ebola virus that has killed scores of people in Guinea this year is a new strain—evidence that the disease did not spread there from outbreaks in some other African nations, scientists report.