TOKYO, JAPAN – The NEC Corporation announced that it has developed a new type of biometric identification technology, which recognizes individuals based on the acoustic resonance of the ear, according to a March 7 press release. The technology, says the company, instantaneously measures the unique acoustic characteristics of an individual’s ear in approximately one second. Using an earphone with a built in microphone to receive the sound as it resonates within the ear cavity helps produce a fast and “highly accurate” recognition.
Because each individual’s ear produces a unique resonance, the newly developed method enables recognition with accuracy greater than 99%, the company claims.
“Since the new technology does not require particular actions such as scanning a part of the body over an authentication device, it enables a natural way of conducting continuous authentication, even during movement and while performing work, simply by wearing an earphone with a built-in microphone to listen to the sounds within ears.” —Shigeki Yamagata, General Manager, NEC Information and Media Processing Laboratories
How Does it Work?
The technology provides a means to carry out a quick and stable method to measure individually unique acoustic characteristics. The following steps are carried out within one second:
- A few hundred milliseconds of sound are transmitted from the earphone into the ear
- The microphone receives the signal
- Synchronous addition method calculates the average of the waveforms of the signals received, and then eliminates noise
- Sound resonance in the ear cavity is measured
Since every person’s ears are unique in size and shape, the acoustic profile will therefore also be unique to each individual, which is the basis of the new technology.
Results of company experiments have shown that the signal components traveling through the external ear canal and reflected by the tympanic membrane, as well as those signal components that pass through the tympanic membrane and are then reflected within the inner parts of the ear, are both key to providing accurate recognition. Using both types of signal components has enabled recognition to be achieved with “minimal computational complexity” and has been demonstrated to be a stable and highly accurate method of biometric identification.
While NEC is not the first, or likely the last, company to focus on the ear as a means of biometric identification. The reported simplicity and accuracy of the technology may make it particularly appealing to many industries, including major smartphone makers like Apple and Samsung (consider how Apple has mainstreamed fingerprint scanning technology on its iPhone with Touch ID).
NEC has plans to commercialize the technology into a number of applications within the next two years.
About NEC Corporation
The NEC Corporation is a Japanese multinational provider of information technology (IT) services and products, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. NEC provides IT and network solutions to business enterprises, communications services providers and to government agencies, and has also been the biggest PC vendor in Japan since the 1980s.