In The Media

Biometrics more than just fingerprints

by Lisha Hassanali (feat. Tom Keenan)

October 12, 2016

he fast pace of innovation could easily make retina and fingerprint scans routine security measures soon. As technology continues to become part of our daily lives, the Schulich School of Engineering presents an opportunity to examine its impacts.

The Schulich School brings together Calgary’s leading experts in biometrics and privacy for a compelling conversation at the Biometrics: More Than Just Fingerprints panel.

Technology as a tool

Biometrics measures features of the human body for identification and can include automated methods and techniques that utilize physiological and behavioural traits. It can involve technology for signal processing, sensory and computational techniques and decision-making.

In the Biometric Technologies Lab at the University of Calgary, led by Svetlana Yanushkevich, professor of electrical and computer engineering, researchers develop new approaches to improve identity management for physical access to airports, public events, hospitals and schools. “My goal in this research is to develop better biometric technologies to minimize risks of misidentification, improve security while respecting privacy,” says Yanushkevich.

Protection vs. privacy

The panel will discuss the pros and cons of using biometric technologies, including its use in access control in border and critical infrastructure, combating fraud and identity theft, health-care safety, privacy, and legislative issues.

“My area of research is integrated sensors and we put significant effort on smart image sensors,” says Orly Yadid-Pecht, AITF Strategic Chair of Integrated Intelligent Sensing (I2Sense) and professor at the Schulich School of Engineering. “We have come up with a wide dynamic range sensor that enables viewing details both in dim light and very strong light in the same frame time (real time video), enabling the biometrics algorithm better input data for a more reliable authentication of a person.“

“How we use technology and biometrics now and in the future is of concern,” says Tom Keenan, professor at the University of Calgary and the author of the book Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy. “There are other options, be it stronger locks for security or other screening protocols. We have to ensure whatever we come up with will meet the sniff test of the public in terms of creepiness.”

Kelly Sundberg, associate professor in the Department of Economics, Justice, and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University adds, “By taking a multidisciplinary approach in the development of new security technologies, solutions stand to be more applicable, appropriate, and effective."

Biometrics: More Than Just Fingerprints event is part of the Engineering Associates Program and takes place on Thursday, Oct. 20 from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the University of Calgary main campus. Please register for the event.

The panel will include:

  • Svetlana Yanushkevich, professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary
  • Kelly Sundberg, associate professor, Department of Political and Justice Studies, Mount Royal University
  • Tom Keenan, professor, Faculty of Environmental Design, and adjunct professor of computer science, University of Calgary
  • Orly Yadid-Pecht, AITF Strategic Chair of Integrated Intelligent Sensing (I2Sense) and professor, Schulich School of Engineering, University of Calgary

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