Brainprints Cause Stir in Biometric Industry


Biometrics has transformed the way a person is identified for government and homeland security. But the theft of the biometric database of 9 million Israelis last year has jeopardized personal and sensitive information.

A new and emerging candidate is semantic memory identification, or brainprint.

Post-doctoral researcher Blair C. Armstrong and colleagues at the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain, and Language (BCBL) in Spain are experimenting with a technology akin to brain fingerprints. The research team found brainwave responses are specific for each individual. The responses are involuntary, so the user is not even aware what responses are being emitted.

According to reports, “the EEG method would have an advantage over fingerprinting or passwords in the sense that the identity of the user, say of a high-security computer account, could be verified continuously.” Once a finger or an eyeball is damaged, lost, or stolen, a person can’t simply grow new ones to replace it. With brain prints, one can simply reset it to what the brain registers when it views a different image, word, or phrase.

Researchers from Binghamton University recorded the brain activity of 50 people wearing electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets as they looked at a series of images like slice of pizza, boats, and actors. Participants’ brains reacted differently to each image, “enough that a computer system was able to identify each volunteer’s ‘brainprint’ with 100% accuracy.”

According to researcher Zhanpeng Jin, “Brainprint will provide even higher security protection than existing popular biometrics. We seek to explore and verify the uniqueness of intuitive human brain responses, specifically the brainwaves in response to certain external visual stimuli.”

Boston University’s Vice President of Research Bahgat Sammakia, remarked the findings as innovative and useful beyond password protection. He foresees this discovery being used on a worldwide scale, including cybersecurity, banks and other financial institutions.

Brainprint positively complements existing biometric identification methods such as fingerprints and retinal scans, as a foolproof method of protection for high-level security needs. Fingerprints, iris scans are effective ID processes, but only now with the addition of brainprints, can biometrics arrive at a holistic system of increased robustness, reliability, and accuracy. Brainprints is the future, the promise of continuous validation, one that cannot be hacked.

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