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New Lab Working on Security Shoe Sole to ID People


biometric shoe, illustration

Sensors in a biometric shoe monitor a person's gait, then a microcomputer compares the patterns to a master file for that person.

Credit: Tech2

Carnegie Mellon University researchers are developing shoe insoles that can help monitor access to high-security areas. Sensors in the "bio-soles" check the pressure of the wearer's feet, monitor their gait, and use a computer to analyze the patterns to identify a person. The shoe will send a wireless alarm message if the patterns don't match. "It's part of a shoe that you don't have to think about," says Marios Savvides, director of Carnegie Mellon's new Pedo-Biometrics Lab.

The Institute of Intelligent Machines also is researching gait biometrics, and is reportedly developing systems in which a floor monitors footsteps without people's knowledge. The bio-soles also could have medical uses, as several recent papers suggest changes in how the elderly walk can provide early warnings of dementia. "I must admit I find this news very exciting," says podiatrist John DiMaggio, who agrees that it makes sense to use feet as a biometric identification source.

However, others warn that such systems could have privacy issues. "Any biometric capture device is a potential tracking device, just like every iPhone is a potential tracking device," cautions the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Lee Tien. He warns that bio-soles could secretly be implanted into people's shoes.

From Associated Press
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