WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY

January 12, 2019


Wearable technology’s evolution is not about the gadget on the wrist or the arm but what is done with the data these devices collect, say most computational biologist. I think before we go on, let’s define wearable technology as:

“Wearable technology (also called wearable gadgets) is a category of technology devices that can be worn by a consumer and often include tracking information related to health and fitness. Other wearable tech gadgets include devices that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with your mobile devices.”

Several examples of wearable technology may be seen by the following digital photographs.

You can all recognize the “watches” shown above. I have one on right now.  For Christmas this year, my wife gave me a Fitbit Charge 3.  I can monitor: 1.) Number of steps per day, 2.) Pulse rate, 3.) Calories burned during the day, 4.) Time of day, 5.) Number of stairs climbed per day, 6.) Miles walked or run per day, and 7.) Several items I can program in from the app on my digital phone.  It is truly a marvelous device.

Other wearables provide very different information and accomplish data of much greater import.

The device above is manufactured by a company called Lumus.  This company focusses on products that provide new dimensions for the human visual experience. It offers cutting-edge eyewear displays that can be used in various applications including gaming, movie watching, text reading, web browsing, and interaction with the interface of wearable computers. Lumus does not aim to produce self-branded products. Instead, the company wants to work with various original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to enable the wider use of its technologies.  This is truly ground-breaking technology being used today on a limited basis.

Wearable technology is aiding individuals of decreasing eyesight to see as most people see.  The methodology is explained with the following digital.

Glucose levels may be monitored by the device shown above. No longer is it necessary to prick your finger to draw a small droplet of blood to determine glucose levels.  The device below can do that on a continuous basis and without a cumbersome test device.

There are many over the world suffering from “A-fib”.  Periodic monitoring becomes a necessity and one of the best methods of accomplishing that is shown by the devices below. A watch monitors pulse rate and sends that information via blue tooth to an app downloaded on your cell phone.

Four Benefits of Wearable Health Technology are as follows:

  • Real Time Data collection. Wearables can already collect an array of data like activity levels, sleep and heart rate, among others. …
  • Continuous Monitoring. …
  • Predict and alerting. …
  • Empowering patients.

Major advances in sensor and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technologies are allowing much more accurate measurements and facilitating believable data that can be used to track movements and health conditions on any one given day.  In many cases, the data captured can be downloaded into a computer and transmitted to a medical practitioner for documentation.

Sensor miniaturization is a key driver for space-constrained wearable design.  Motion sensors are now available in tiny packages measuring 2 x 2 millimeters.  As mentioned, specific medical sensors can be used to track 1.) Heart rate variability, 2.) Oxygen levels, 3.) Cardiac health, 4.) Blood pressure, 5.) Hemoglobin, 6.) Glucose levels and 7.) Body temperature.  These medical devices represent a growing market due to their higher accuracy and greater performance.  These facts make them less prone to price pressures that designers commonly face with designing consumer wearables.

One great advantage for these devices now is the ability to hold a charge for a much longer period of time.  My Fitbit has a battery life of seven (7) days.  That’s really unheard of relative to times past.

CONCLUSION:  Wearable designs are building a whole new industry one gadget at a time.  MEMS sensors represent an intrinsic part of this design movement. Wearable designs have come a long way from counting steps in fitness trackers, and they are already applying machine-learning algorithms to classify and analyze data.


WHERE WE ARE:

The manufacturing industry remains an essential component of the U.S. economy.  In 2016, manufacturing accounted for almost twelve percent (11.7%) of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and contributed slightly over two trillion dollars ($2.18 trillion) to our economy. Every dollar spent in manufacturing adds close to two dollars ($1.81) to the economy because it contributes to development in auxiliary sectors such as logistics, retail, and business services.  I personally think this is a striking number when you compare that contribution to other sectors of our economy.  Interestingly enough, according to recent research, manufacturing could constitute as much as thirty-three percent (33%) of the U.S. GDP if both its entire value chain and production for other sectors are included.  Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employment in manufacturing has been trending up since January of 2017. After double-digit gains in the first quarter of 2017, six thousand (6,000) new jobs were added in April.  Currently, the manufacturing industry employs 12,396,000 people, which equals more than nine percent (9%) of the U.S. workforce.   Nonetheless, many experts are concerned that these employment gains are soon to be halted by the ever-rising adoption of automation. Yet automation is inevitable—and like in the previous industrial revolutions, automation is likely to result in job creation in the long term.  If we look back at the Industrial Revolution.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION:

The Industrial Revolution began in the late 18th century when a series of new inventions such as the spinning jenny and steam engine transformed manufacturing in Britain. The changes in British manufacturing spread across Europe and America, replacing traditional rural lifestyles as people migrated to cities in search of work. Men, women and children worked in the new factories operating machines that spun and wove cloth, or made pottery, paper and glass.

Women under 20 made comprised the majority of all factory workers, according to an article on the Industrial Revolution by the Economic History Association. Many power loom workers, and most water frame and spinning jenny workers, were women. However, few women were mule spinners, and male workers sometimes violently resisted attempts to hire women for this position, although some women did work as assistant mule spinners. Many children also worked in the factories and mines, operating the same dangerous equipment as adult workers.  As you might suspect, this was a great departure from times prior to the revolution.

WHERE WE ARE GOING:

In an attempt to create more jobs, the new administration is reassessing free trade agreements, leveraging tariffs on imports, and promising tax incentives to manufacturers to keep their production plants in the U.S. Yet while these measures are certainly making the U.S. more attractive for manufacturers, they’re unlikely to directly increase the number of jobs in the sector. What it will do, however, is free up more capital for manufacturers to invest in automation. This will have the following benefits:

  • Automation will reduce production costs and make U.S. companies more competitive in the global market. High domestic operating costs—in large part due to comparatively high wages—compromise the U.S. manufacturing industry’s position as the world leader. Our main competitor is China, where low-cost production plants currently produce almost eighteen percent (17.6%) of the world’s goods—just zero-point percent (0.6%) less than the U.S. Automation allows manufacturers to reduce labor costs and streamline processes. Lower manufacturing costs results in lower product prices, which in turn will increase demand.

Low-cost production plants in China currently produce 17.6% of the world’s goods—just 0.6% less

than the U.S.

  • Automation increases productivity and improves quality. Smart manufacturing processes that make use of technologies such as robotics, big data, analytics, sensors, and the IoT are faster, safer, more accurate, and more consistent than traditional assembly lines. Robotics provide 24/7 labor, while automated systems perform real-time monitoring of the production process. Irregularities, such as equipment failures or quality glitches, can be immediately addressed. Connected plants use sensors to keep track of inventory and equipment performance, and automatically send orders to suppliers when necessary. All of this combined minimizes downtime, while maximizing output and product quality.
  • Manufacturers will re-invest in innovation and R&D. Cutting-edge technologies. such as robotics, additive manufacturing, and augmented reality (AR) are likely to be widely adopted within a few years. For example, Apple® CEO Tim Cook recently announced the tech giant’s $1 billion investment fund aimed at assisting U.S. companies practicing advanced manufacturing. To remain competitive, manufacturers will have to re-invest a portion of their profits in R&D. An important aspect of innovation will involve determining how to integrate increasingly sophisticated technologies with human functions to create highly effective solutions that support manufacturers’ outcomes.

Technologies such as robotics, additive manufacturing, and augmented reality are likely to be widely adopted soon. To remain competitive, manufacturers will have to re-invest a portion of their profits in R&D.

HOW AUTOMATION WILL AFFECT THE WORKFORCE:

Now, let’s look at the five ways in which automation will affect the workforce.

  • Certain jobs will be eliminated.  By 2025, 3.5 million jobs will be created in manufacturing—yet due to the skills gap, two (2) million will remain unfilled. Certain repetitive jobs, primarily on the assembly line will be eliminated.  This trend is with us right now.  Retraining of employees is imperative.
  • Current jobs will be modified.  In sixty percent (60%) of all occupations, thirty percent (30%) of the tasks can be automated.  For the first time, we hear the word “co-bot”.  Co-bot is robotic assisted manufacturing where an employee works side-by-side with a robotic system.  It’s happening right now.
  • New jobs will be created. There are several ways automation will create new jobs. First, lower operating costs will make U.S. products more affordable, which will result in rising demand. This in turn will increase production volume and create more jobs. Second, while automation can streamline and optimize processes, there are still tasks that haven’t been or can’t be fully automated. Supervision, maintenance, and troubleshooting will all require a human component for the foreseeable future. Third, as more manufacturers adopt new technologies, there’s a growing need to fill new roles such as data scientists and IoT engineers. Fourth, as technology evolves due to practical application, new roles that integrate human skills with technology will be created and quickly become commonplace.
  • There will be a skills gap between eliminated jobs and modified or new roles. Manufacturers should partner with educational institutions that offer vocational training in STEM fields. By offering students on-the-job training, they can foster a skilled and loyal workforce.  Manufacturers need to step up and offer additional job training.  Employees need to step up and accept the training that is being offered.  Survival is dependent upon both.
  • The manufacturing workforce will keep evolving. Manufacturers must invest in talent acquisition and development—both to build expertise in-house and to facilitate continuous innovation.  Ten years ago, would you have heard the words, RFID, Biometrics, Stereolithography, Additive manufacturing?  I don’t think so.  The workforce MUST keep evolving because technology will only improve and become a more-present force on the manufacturing floor.

As always, I welcome your comments.

THE NEXT FIVE (5) YEARS

February 15, 2017


As you well know, there are many projections relative to economies, stock market, sports teams, entertainment, politics, technology, etc.   People the world over have given their projections for what might happen in 2017.  The world of computing technology is absolutely no different.  Certain information for this post is taken from the publication “COMPUTER.org/computer” web site.  These guys are pretty good at projections and have been correct multiple times over the past two decades.  They take their information from the IEEE.

The IEEE Computer Society is the world’s leading membership organization dedicated to computer science and technology. Serving more than 60,000 members, the IEEE Computer Society is the trusted information, networking, and career-development source for a global community of technology leaders that includes researchers, educators, software engineers, IT professionals, employers, and students.  In addition to conferences and publishing, the IEEE Computer Society is a leader in professional education and training, and has forged development and provider partnerships with major institutions and corporations internationally. These rich, self-selected, and self-paced programs help companies improve the quality of their technical staff and attract top talent while reducing costs.

With these credentials, you might expect them to be on the cutting edge of computer technology and development and be ahead of the curve as far as computer technology projections.  Let’s take a look.  Some of this absolutely blows me away.

human-brain-interface

This effort first started within the medical profession and is continuing as research progresses.  It’s taken time but after more than a decade of engineering work, researchers at Brown University and a Utah company, Blackrock Microsystems, have commercialized a wireless device that can be attached to a person’s skull and transmit via radio thought commands collected from a brain implant. Blackrock says it will seek clearance for the system from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so that the mental remote control can be tested in volunteers, possibly as soon as this year.

The device was developed by a consortium, called BrainGate, which is based at Brown and was among the first to place implants in the brains of paralyzed people and show that electrical signals emitted by neurons inside the cortex could be recorded, then used to steer a wheelchair or direct a robotic arm (see “Implanting Hope”).

A major limit to these provocative experiments has been that patients can only use the prosthetic with the help of a crew of laboratory assistants. The brain signals are collected through a cable screwed into a port on their skull, then fed along wires to a bulky rack of signal processors. “Using this in the home setting is inconceivable or impractical when you are tethered to a bunch of electronics,” says Arto Nurmikko, the Brown professor of engineering who led the design and fabrication of the wireless system.

capabilities-hardware-projection

Unless you have been living in a tree house for the last twenty years you know digital security is a huge problem.  IT professionals and companies writing code will definitely continue working on how to make our digital world more secure.  That is a given.

exascale

We can forget Moor’s Law which refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention.  Moore’s law predicts that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future. Although the pace has slowed, the number of transistors per square inch has since doubled approximately every 18 months. This is used as the current definition of Moore’s law.  We are well beyond that with processing speed literally progressing at “warp six”.

non-volitile-memory

If you are an old guy like me, you can remember when computer memory costs an arm and a leg.  Take a look at the JPEG below and you get an idea as to how memory costs has decreased over the years.

hard-drive-cost-per-gbyte

As you can see, costs have dropped remarkably over the years.

photonics

texts-for-photonoics

power-conservative-multicores

text-for-power-conservative-multicores

CONCLUSION:

If you combine the above predictions with 1.) Big Data, 2.) Internet of Things (IoT), 3.) Wearable Technology, 4.) Manufacturing 4.0, 5.) Biometrics, and other fast-moving technologies you have a world in which “only the adventurous thrive”.  If you do not like change, I recommend you enroll in a monastery.  You will not survive gracefully without technology on the rampage. Just a thought.


FACTS:

  • 707,758 motor vehicles were reported stolen in the United States in 2015, up three point one (3.1) percent from 2014, according to the FBI.
  • A motor vehicle was stolen in the United States every forty-five (45) seconds in 2015.
  • Eight of the top ten cities with the highest rate of vehicle theft in 2015 were in California, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
  • Nationwide, the 2015 motor vehicle theft rate per 100,000 people was 220.2, up two point two (2.2) percent from 2015.2 in 2014. The highest rate was reported in the West, 371.5 or up eight point two (8.2) percent from 342.2 in 2014.
  • In 2015, only thirteen point one (13.1) percent of motor vehicle thefts were cleared, either by arrests or by exceptional mean, compared with 2014 percent for arson and nineteen point four (19.4) percent for all property crimes. Very disappointing statistics indeed.
  • Autos accounted for 74.7 percent of all motor vehicles stolen in 2015, trucks and buses accounted for 14.8 percent and other vehicles for 10.5 percent.

Given below are the cities in which most vehicles are stolen:

top-10-cities-for-stolen-vehicles

TOP TEN VEHICLES STOLEN:

The National Insurance Crime Bureau ranked the 10 most stolen vehicles in the country with data from the NCIC. Let’s take a look.  The actual numbers are in parentheses.

  1. Honda Accord (52,244)
  2. Honda Civic(49,430)
  3. Ford pickup (full size) (29,396)
  4. Chevrolet pickup (full size) (27,771)
  5. Toyota Camry (15,466)
  6. Ram pickup (full size) (11,212)
  7. Toyota Corolla(10,547)
  8. Nissan Altima (10,374)
  9. Dodge Caravan (9,798)
  10. Chevrolet Impala(9,225)

Automotive engineers continue to examine smartphone system and design to provide models for the development of an increasingly sophisticated user experience, with large center information displays and capacitive touchscreen being a good example.  Now designers are adding another smartphone feature, the fingerprint sensor to enhance modernization of the driver’s interface to functions in and beyond the automobile. This and other forms of biometric authentication, show great promise if implemented with sensitivity to user privacy and the extremes of the automotive operating environment.

BIOMETRICS:

Just what is the science of Biometrics?

Biometrics may be a fairly new term to some individuals so it is entirely appropriate at this time to define the technology.  This will lay the groundwork for the discussion to follow.  According to the International Biometric Society:

“Biometrics is used to refer to the emerging field of technology devoted to identification of individuals using biological traits, such as those based on retinal or iris scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition.”

The terms “Biometrics” and “Biometry” have been used since early in the 20th century to refer to the field of development of statistical and mathematical methods applicable to data analysis problems in the biological sciences.

From the Free Dictionary, we see the following definition:

  • The statistical study of biological phenomena.
  • The measurement of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, DNA, or retinal patterns for use in verifying the identity of individuals.
  • Biometricsrefers to metrics related to human characteristics. Biometrics authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. Physiological characteristics are related to the shape of the body.  Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, palm veins and odor/scent.  Behavioral characteristics are related to the pattern of behavior of a person, including but not limited to typing rhythm, gait, and voice.  Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.

More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number.  Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.

The oldest biometric identifier is facial recognition. The dimensions, proportions and physical attributes of a person’s face are unique and occur very early in infants.   A child will (obviously) recognize a parent, a brother or sister.  It is only since the advent of computers and accompanying software that the ability to quantify facial features has become possible.

The FBI has long been a leader in biometrics and has used various forms of biometric identification since the very earliest day.  This Federal institution assumed responsibility for managing the national fingerprint collection in 1924.  As you know, fingerprints vary from person to person (even identical twins have different prints) and don’t change over time. As a result, they are an effective way of identifying fugitives and helping to prove both guilt and innocence.

AUTOMOTIVE BIOMETRICS USING FINGERPRINT TECHNOLOGY:

What areas of a typical vehicle might benefit from specifically identifying a human being and matching that person to a particular car? Several possibilities come to mind:

  • Secure Access;
    ● Ignition Permission;
    ● Seat Reservations;
    ● On board communication systems;
    ● Anti-Theft programs;
    ● Driving license suspension programs.

All of these would insure privacy and access.  The two digital photographs below will serve to indicate how this methodology might work for an automobile.

starting-the-car

The fingerprint reader can be located in the steering wheel so the driver can concentrate in a better fashion.  This definitely desirable if biometric fingerprints are used for purposes other than starting the vehicle.

starting-the-car2

With this in mind, there are three mainstream fingerprint-sensing technologies available for automotive applications. These are as follows:

  • Capacitive Sensing—This is used in the world’s best-selling smartphones due to very small size: a sensing pad a few tens of microns thick and a small controller allow for very low power consumption.
  • Optical Fingerprint Sensing—Optical sensors are highly reliable and accurate, and so are widely used at border crossings. However, the sensors require a backlight to illuminate the finer.  They are still comparatively bulky compared to capacitive solutions.
  • Ultrasonic Sensing—This offers reliable detection of fingerprints in 3 D but has not found its way into mainstream mobile devices and is relative expensive.

CONCLUSIONS:

I believe biometrics will play a much bigger role in the automotive industry over the next few years.  Biometric fingerprinting could be used in a host of areas including:

  • Access to cabin compartment
  • Starting
  • Accessing cellphone communications
  • Allowing for application software located on cellphone so warm up in very cold climates could be made possible.

Now—here is the downside.  Someone has to be capable of troubleshooting a failed device and fix same if difficulties arise.  As complexity grows, we move more toward replace than fix.  Replace is costly.

As always, I welcome your comments.


I want us to consider a “what-if” scenario.  You are thirty-two years old, out of school, and have finally landed a job you really enjoy AND you are actually making money at that job. You have your expenses covered with “traveling money” left over for a little fun.  You recently discovered the possibility that Social Security (SS), when you are ready to retire, will be greatly reduced if not completely eliminated. You MUST start saving for retirement and consider SS to be the icing on the cake if available at all.  QUESTION: Where do you start?  As you investigate the stock markets you find stocks seem to be the best possibility for future income.  Stocks, bonds, “T” bills, etc. all are possibilities but stocks are at the top of the list.

People pay plenty of money for consulting giants to help them figure out which technology trends are fads and which will stick. You could go that route, or get the same thing from the McKinsey Global Institute’s in-house think-tank for the cost of a new book. No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, was written by McKinsey directors Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel, and offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. If you chose stocks, you definitely want to look at technology sectors AND consider companies contributing products to those sectors.  The following list from that book may help.  Let’s take a look.

Below, we’re recapping their list of the “Disruptive Dozen”—the technologies the group believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.

Batteries

energy-storage

The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient.  Battery technology will remain with us and will contribute to ever-increasing product offerings as time goes by.  Companies supplying this market sector will only increase in importance.

Genomics

genomics

As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops.  This is a rapidly growing field and one that has and will save lives.

Material Science

advanced-materials

The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.

Self-Driving or Autonomous Automobiles

self-driving-vehicles

Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves. You will not catch me in a self-driving automobile unless the FED and the auto maker can assure me they are safe.  Continuous effort is being expended to do just that.  These driverless automobiles are coming and we all may just as well get used to it.

Alternate Energy Solutions

reneuable-energy

Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.  I might include with wind and solar, methane recovery from landfills, biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and other environmentally friendly alternatives.

Robotic Systems

advanced-robotics

The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.

3-D Printing

3-d-printing

Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”

Mobile Devices

mobile-internet

The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.

Artificial Intelligence

automation-of-knowledge

It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.

 

The Internet of Things (IoT)

iot

Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.

Cloud Technology

cloud-technology

The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”

Oil Production

advanced-oil-technology

The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets.  This was a real surprise to me but our country has abundant oil supplies and we are already fairly self-sufficient.

Big Data

big-data

There is an ever-increasing accumulation of data from all sources.  At no time in our global history has there been a greater thirst for information.  We count and measure everything now days with the recent election being one example of that very fact.  Those who can control and manage big data are definitely ahead of the game.

CONCLUSION:  It’s a brave new world and a world that accommodates educated individuals.  STAY IN SCHOOL.  Get ready for what’s coming.  The world as we know it will continue to change with greater opportunities as time advances.  Be there.  Also, I would recommend investing in those technology sectors that feed the changes.  I personally don’t think a young investor will go wrong.


A web site called “The Best Schools” recently published a list of the top twenty (20) professions they feel are the most viable and stable for the next decade.   They have identified twenty (20) jobs representing a variety of industries that are not only thriving now, but are expected to grow throughout the next ten (10) years. Numbers were taken from projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for 2010 to 2020.  I would like to list those jobs for you now as the BLS sees them.  Please note, these are in alphabetical order.

  • Accountant/Auditor
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Brick mason, Block mason, and Stone mason
  • Civil Engineer
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Financial Examiner
  • Health Educator
  • Home Health Aide
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Interpreter/Translator
  • Management Analyst
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Meeting/Event Planner
  • Mental Health Counselor and Family Therapist
  • Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist
  • Physician and Surgeon
  • Registered Nurse
  • Software Developer
  • Veterinarian

I would like now to present what the BLS indicates will be job growth for the engineering disciplines.  Job prospects for engineers over the next ten (10) years are very positive and according to them, most engineering disciplines will experience growth over the coming decade.

Professions such as biomedical engineering will see stellar growth of twenty-three percent (23%) over the next ten (10) years, while nuclear engineering will actually see a four percent (4%) decline in jobs over the coming decade.

The engineering profession is expected to follow the range of average job growth — about five percent (5%) — through 2024. Engineers, however, are expected to earn more, beginning right after graduation.  Two smart moves that will help engineering job prospects, according to the latest stats, include post-graduate education and the willingness to move into management. This is no different than it has always been.  I would also recommend taking a look at an MBA, after you receive your MS degree in your specific field of endeavor.

Mechanical Engineer

Petroleum

Materials Engineer

Aeorspace

Civil

Biomedical

Neuclear


Chemical

Computer Hardware

Industrial

Electrical

Mining

Computer Programmers

Environmental

Health and Safety

CONCLUSIONS:

I think it can be said that any profession in the fields of engineering and health services will be somewhat insulated from fluxations in the economy over the next ten years.  We are getting older and apparently fatter.   Both “conditions” require healthcare specialists.  Older medical and engineering practitioners are retiring at a very fast rate and many of the positions available are due those retirements.  At the present time, companies in the United States cannot find enough engineers and engineering technicians to fill available jobs.  There is a huge skills gap in our country left unfilled due to lack of training and lack of motivation on the part of well-bodied individuals.  It’s a great problem that must be solved as we progress into the twenty-first century.  My recommendation—BE AN ENGINEER. The jobs for the next twenty years are out there.  Just a thought.

IDENTIFY THEFT AND FRAUD

August 1, 2015


I recently completed writing a training module for PDHonline.org.  PDH publishes documents allowing engineers and architects to satisfy their annual requirements for continuing education units (CEUs).  There are thirty-six (36) states requiring CEUs for continued listing as a professional engineer or professional architect.  My newest module is “BIOMETRICS”.   Biometric technology is one possible method for eliminating or lessening theft and fraud.  I was absolutely amazed at the level of fraud each year in our country.

When we consider the number of identity theft and fraud cases each year, we see the following picture.  Add to the numbers below the instances of money laundering and you get a difficult situation hard to believe.  Let’s take a look.

  • Approximately  fifteen (15)  million United States residents have their identities used fraudulently each year, with financial losses totaling upwards of fifty billion ($50 B).  I have personally been the victim three times relative to identity theft.  Not stolen cards, but someone “lifting” my numbers, recreating the card and charging at will.
  • On a case-by-case basis, that means approximately seven percent (7%) of all adults have their identities misused with each instance resulting in approximately $3,500 in losses.
  • Close to one hundred (100) million additional Americans have their personal identifying information placed at risk of identity theft each year when records maintained in government and corporate databases are lost or stolen.  We have just seen this recently with Federal employees.
  • On average, banks charge nineteen percent (19%) for a returned check and fiver dollars ($5.00) to the depositor. Assuming a combined revenue stream to banks of twenty-four dollars ($24.00) for returning a check, with 300 million returned checks, the annual revenue from returned checks is seven billion dollars ($7billion).  Some banks, generally the larger nation-wide banks, charge upwards to $50.00 for a returned check.
  • Ernst & Young reports that more than five hundred (500) million checks are forged annually.   The American Banker, an industry magazine, predicts that there will be a twenty-five percent (25%) increase in check fraud in the 2016 year.
  • Money laundering has increased over the last ten years. As a result, global efforts to combat this crime have increased. While it is extremely difficult to estimate the amount of worldwide money laundering, one model estimated that in 1998 it was near $2.85 trillion.
  • According to Meridian Research, estimated fraud loss for the credit card industry amounts to $1.5 billion annually, of which $230 million is estimated to result from online transactions. MasterCard reported a 33.7% increase in worldwide fraud from 1998 to 1999. During the first quarter of 2000, fraud losses increased 35.3% over the last quarter in 1999. VISA reports similar trends. It is estimated that fraud losses for online transactions may exceed $500 million in 2000. Fraudulent credit card activities include the use of counterfeit, stolen, and never received cards, as well as account takeover, mail order and Internet card-not present transactions.
  • The FBI estimates losses from check fraud total $18.7 billion annually in our country alone.
  • Health care fraud costs the United States tens of billions of dollars a year. It’s a rising threat, with national health care expenditures estimated to exceed $3 trillion in 2014 and spending continuing to outpace inflation. Recent cases also show that medical professionals continue, and may be more willing, to risk patient harm in furtherance of their schemes.  Medicare has no official estimate of the amount of money lost to fraud each year, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation refers to estimates of three to ten percent of all health care billings. In 2011, Medicare expenditures totaled approximately $565 billion. If the FBI percentages are applied to this amount, the cost of Medicare fraud for the 2011 fiscal year was anywhere from $17-57 billion.
  • According to an FBI report on insurance fraud, published on its web site under “The Economic Crimes Unit” section, total insurance industry fraud is $27.6 billion annually. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud breaks the total down across the insurance industry as follows:
    • Auto $12.3 billion ·
    • Homeowners $1.8 billion ·
    •  Business/Commercial $12 billion ·
    • Life/Disability $1.5 billion

Economic crimes in this area include those committed both internally and externally. Internal fraud can manifest itself in bribery of company officials, misrepresentation of company information for personal gain, and the like.

  • In his testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary on March 21, 2000, Chairman Arthur Levitt stated that Internet securities fraud is on the rise. He stated that there will be over 5.5 million online brokerage accounts by year end. The SEC has seen a rapid rise in Internet fraud in this area, with most of it occurring between 1998 and 1999. One recent pyramid scheme raised more than $150 million from over 155,000 investors before it was shut down. Securities fraud takes the form of stock manipulation, fraudulent offerings, and illegal touts conducted through newspapers, meetings, and cold calling, among others. These same scams have been conducted electronically, but are now joined by some newer, more sophisticated fraudulent activity. These include momentum-trading web sites, scalping recommendations, message boards posted by imposters, web sites for day trading recommendations, and misdirected messages. Investors are suffering large losses due to these cyber crimes.
  • The U.S. Secret Service estimates that telecommunication fraud losses exceed $1 billion annually.  Other estimates range from three ($3) billion to twelve ($12) billion.  Subscription or identity fraud involves using false or stolen IDs or credit cards to gain free service and anonymity. It has tripled since 1997, says Rick Kemper, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association’s (CTIA) director of wireless technology and security, a trend he attributes to criminals favoring subscription fraud over cloning, plus increased industry competition to reach a broader and riskier market. The International Data Corporation (IDC: Framingham, MA) stated that, “Fraud remains endemic to the wireless industry, with estimated loses expected to reach a staggering $677 million by 2002…”   One of the key reasons is the dramatic increase of subscription fraud which IDC estimates will reach $473 million by 2002.17 Telemarketing fraud resulted in losses to victims of over $40 billion in 1998.   In 1996, the FBI estimated that there were over 14,000 telemarketing firms that were involved in fraudulent acts, the majority of which victimized the elderly.
  • Intellectual property theft – in the form of trademark infringement, cyber squatters, typo squatters, trade-secret theft, and copyright infringement – has increased as Internet use and misuse has risen. It occurs across the seven industries detailed here, as well as most other businesses. “According to the American Society for Industrial Security, American businesses have been losing $250 billion a year from intellectual property theft since the mid-1990’s.

These alarming statistics demonstrate identity theft and fraud may be the most frequent, costly and pervasive crime in the United States and on a global basis.  There is also a growing belief that biometrics may be able to lessen to a very great degree identity theft.   Let’s take a look at the “BIOMETRIC SUITE”:

Biometric Suite

The methods used, relative to allowing access to information and location, must be determined by careful consideration of 1.) Cost, 2.) Interface with existing computer equipment and computer code, 3.) Level of social intrusion tolerated, 4.) Ease in maintenance of equipment and 5.) Level of security required by the facility.  You would expect entry into a nuclear facility to be more difficult that entry into an NFL locker room. You get the point.  All of these factors must be considered with converting from existing systems to biometric technology.

I do NOT think anyone would disagree that something MUST be done to lessen identity theft and fraudulent activity.  The FED won’t really do this.  They are much too busy getting reelected, establishing their “brand”, satisfying their “base and securing their “legacy”.  Change must occur through the private sector.

As always, I welcome your comments.

BIOMETRICS

July 30, 2015


INTRODUCTION:

Biometrics may be a fairly new term to some individuals so it is entirely appropriate at this time to define the technology.  This will lay the groundwork for the discussion to follow.  According to the International Biometric Society:

“Biometrics is used to refer to the emerging field of technology devoted to identification of individuals using biological traits, such as those based on retinal or iris scanning, fingerprints, or face recognition.”

The terms “Biometrics” and “Biometry” have been used since early in the 20th century to refer to the field of development of statistical and mathematical methods applicable to data analysis problems in the biological sciences.

From the Free Dictionary we see the following definition:

  • The statistical study of biological phenomena.
  • The measurement of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, DNA, or retinal patterns for use in verifying the identity of individuals.
  • Biometrics refers to metrics related to human characteristics. Biometrics authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals. Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics. Physiological characteristics are related to the shape of the body.  Examples include, but are not limited to fingerprint, palm veins and odor/scent.  Behavioral characteristics are related to the pattern of behavior of a person, including but not limited to typing rhythm, gait, and voice.  Some researchers have coined the term behaviometrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.

More traditional means of access control include token-based identification systems, such as a driver’s license or passport, and knowledge-based identification systems, such as a password or personal identification number.  Since biometric identifiers are unique to individuals, they are more reliable in verifying identity than token and knowledge-based methods; however, the collection of biometric identifiers raises privacy concerns about the ultimate use of this information.

The oldest biometric identifier is facial recognition. The dimensions, proportions and physical attributes of a person’s face are unique and occur very early in infants.   A child will (obviously) recognize a parent, a brother or sister.  It is only since the advent of computers and accompanying software that the ability to quantify facial features has become possible.

The FBI has long been a leader in biometrics and has used various forms of biometric identification since the very earliest day.  This Federal institution assumes responsibility for managing the national fingerprint collection in 1924.  As you know, fingerprints vary from person to person (even identical twins have different prints) and don’t change over time. As a result, they are an effective way of identifying fugitives and helping to prove both guilt and innocence.

We will discuss fingerprints, as well as other modes of identification, later on in this course.

BIOMETRIC APPLICATIONS:

In the last several years, improvements in the technology have greatly increased application.  It is expected that in the near future, we will use biometry many times in our daily activities such as getting in the car, opening the door of our house, accessing our bank account, shopping by internet, accessing our PDA, mobile phone, laptops, etc. Depending on where biometric systems are deployed, the applications can be categorized in the following five main groups:  1.) Forensic, 2.) Government, 3.) Commercial, 4.) Health-care, and 5.) Traveling and immigration. However, some applications are common to these groups such as physical access, PC/network access, time and attendance, etc.

Forensic:

The use of biometric technology in law enforcement and forensic analysis applied to law enforcement, has been known and used for quite some time.  That technology is used mainly for identification of criminals. In particular, the AFIS (automatic fingerprint identification system) has been used for this purpose.  Recently, facial-scan technology or mug shots are being used for the identification of suspects. Another possible application is the verification of individuals considered for arrest as suspects in home and auto break-ins.  The typical applications are:

  • Identification of criminals- Collecting evidence, such as fingerprints, at the scene of a crime makes it possible to compare information relative to an existing database.  You often hear in the movies of investigating officers “dusting for fingerprints”. This has been and is common practice.
  • Surveillance –-Using cameras, one can monitor very busy areas such as stadiums, airports, meeting rooms, etc. to determine the presence of criminal suspects or when suspected criminal activity could be a possibility.   Based on the face recognition biometric, using images (e.g., mug shots), database files of wanted persons or criminals may be integrated to verify their presence. Since the events of September 11, 2001, the interest in biometric surveillance has increased dramatically, especially for air travel. There are many cameras monitoring crowds at airports for detecting wanted terrorists.
  • Corrections –This refers to the treatment of offenders (criminals) through a system of penal incarceration, rehabilitation, probation, and parole, or the administrative system by which these are effectuated. In this cases a biometric system can avoid the possibility of accidentally releasing the wrong prisoner, or to ensure that people leaving the facilities are really visitors and not inmates.
  • Probation and home arrest – Biometrics can also be used for post-release programs (conditional release) to ensure the fulfillment of the probation, parole and home detention terms.

Government:

There are many application of biometric technology used and operating in the government sector. An AFIS or Automatic Fingerprint Identification System is the primary means for locating duplicate entities enrolled in benefits systems, electronic voting for local or national elections, issuance of driver’s license emission, etc. The typical application is:

  • National Identification Cards – The idea is to include digital biometric information in the national identification card. This is the most ambitious biometric program, since the identification must be performed in a large-scale database, containing hundreds of millions of samples, corresponding to the whole population of one country. These cards can be used for multiple purposes such as controlling the collection of benefits, avoiding duplicates of voter registration and drivers license usage.    These applications are primarily based on finger-scan and AFIS technology; however it is possible that facial-scan and iris-scan technology could be used in the future.
  • Voter ID and Elections – While the biometric national identification (ID) card is still an ongoing project in the United States, many countries already use this mode of biometry to control  voting and voter registration.  These ID cards are used for national and/or regional elections. During the registration of voters, biometric data is captured and embedded in the card with matching data in a stored database for the later use. The purpose is to prevent duplicate registration and voting.
  • Driver’s licenses – In many countries a valid driver license is used as an identification document; therefore it is important to prevent duplication and use under a different name. Biometrics can eliminate this problem.  However, it is important that the data is shared between states, because in the United States, the license is controlled at the state level as opposed to the federal level.
  • Benefits Distribution (social service) – The use of biometry in benefits distribution prevents fraud and abuse within government benefits programs.  This can ensure that legitimate recipients have quick and convenient access to benefits such as unemployment, health care and social security.
  • Employee authentication – The government use of biometric data for PC, network, and data access is critical for securing buildings and thereby protection of confidential information.
  • Military programs – The military has long been interested in biometric technology and many of the advancements have come from R&D efforts financed by the government.  With this being the case, the technology has enjoyed extensive support from the national security community.

Commercial:

Banking and financial services represent enormous growth areas for biometric technology.   Many developments are currently in place with pilot projects initiated frequently. Several applications within the banking sector are:

  • Account access –Access to a specific personal or commercial account using Biometrics allows the financial institution to keep definitive records of account access by employees and customers. Using biometry, customers can access accounts and employees can log from their workstations or in person.
  • ATMs –Biometrics allowing ATM access, provides for more secure banking transactions. This access would probably be by virtue of fingerprint, retina or iris scans.
  • Expanded Service Kiosks –A more receptive market for biometrics may be special purpose kiosks, using biometric verification to allow a greater variety of financial transaction than are currently available through standard ATMs.
  • Online banking –Internet-based account access is already widely used in many places.  The inclusion of biometric technology will bring about much greater security for these transactions from home.  Currently, there are many pilot programs using biometrics in home banking.
  • Telephone transaction – Voice-scan biometric can be used to secure telephone-based banking transactions. In this application, when the consumer calls to execute a transaction, a biometric system will authenticate the customer’s identity based on his or her voice. There will be no need for any additional device.
  • PC/Network access –The use of biometric login to local PCs or remotely through networks increases the security of the overall system.  This definitely insures greater protection  of valuable information.
  • Physical access –Biometric technology is widely used for controlling the access to buildings or restricted areas.  This is very common right now.
  • E-commerce – Biometric e-commerce is the use of any biometric mode to verify the identity of individuals wishing to gain remote access for transaction involving goods or services.
  • Time and attendance monitoring –Biometrics can be used for controlling the presence of individuals in a given area. For example, for controlling time sheets of employees or the presence of students in a classroom.  Hand and palm readers are very prevalent in manufacturing locations for use in clocking in and clocking out.

Health Care:

Applications for this sector include identification or verification of individuals interacting with a health-care entity or acting in the capacity of health-care employees or other professionals. The main purpose being prevention of fraud, protecting patient information, and the control of pharmaceutical products. Typical application are:

  • PC/Network Access –To control the activity of employees needing to gain access to hospital networks.  Used primarily to protect patient information from unauthorized personnel.
  • Access of personal information – Patient information could possibly be stored on smart cards or secure networks allowing access for patients relative to their personal information.
  • Patient identification -In cases of emergency and when a patient does not have identification documentation, biometric identification may be a good alternative.   The DoD is experimenting with DNA samples carried by the uniformed soldier allowing doctors in emergency situations to access the patient’s records.

Travel and Immigration

The application in this sector includes the use of biometrics technology to identify or verify the identity of individuals interacting with systems during the course of travel.  This, of course, includes immigration entity or acting in the capacity of an immigration employee. Typical applications are:

  • Air travel –Many airports are already using a biometric system in to reduce inspection processing times for authorized travelers.
  • Border crossing –The use of biometrics to control the travelers crossing the national or state border is increasing, especially in regions with high volume of travelers or illegal immigrants.
  • Employee access –Several airports use biometrics to control the physical access of employees to secure areas.
  • Passports –Some countries already issues passports with biometric information on a barcode or smart chips. The use of biometrics prevents use of multiple passports for the same person and facilitates the identification at the airports and border controls.

As you can see, biometric technology may be one possibility for limiting or eliminating fraud and identity theft.  The technology is still developing and will provide many of the answers needed in years to come.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 


Since 1986 I have done business with a small regional bank; checking account, savings account, etc. I chose that bank, as opposed to larger national banks, due to their size, efficiency and very friendly customer relations.   Good choice on my part and I have been proved correct.   Let me now relate to you a conversation I had two years ago with a lady named Wanda in bookkeeping.

WANDA—Mr. Jackson have you been to Detroit lately?

JACKSON—Its’ been a very long time but no, not within four or five years.

WANDA—Well, your debit card has.  There are sixteen (16) charges on your business account over the past two days.  All from charges in the Detroit area.

JACKSON—What on earth are the charges?

WANDA—McDonalds twice, a pet store, two hotel bookings, a beauty salon, restaurants and there’s more.

JACKSON—None of those charges are mine and I have no idea as to how they were made.

WANDA—Have you lost your card?  Did you leave it someplace?

With this question being asked, I pulled out my wallet and took a look.  The card was right there.

JACKSON—Wanda, I have it right here. How could this have happened with me not having the card stolen or my losing it?

WANDA—We fight these battles every day, Bob.  Here’s what we need to do; let’s close the account right now so no more charges will be made.  You need to get to the bank ASAP and sign sixteen documents stating you have not made the charges shown.  Can you come in today?  We can reimburse your account after establishing another.  Since you have fraud protection you will not lose any money but it will take about two weeks.

I left immediately for a visit to my bank and did just as she said—sign sixteen (16) individual documents stating the charges made to the establishments were fraudulent.  It took the better part of an hour.  I did receive reimbursement for the fraud; $ 612.58 to be exact.  Let’s now take a look at the problem to see just how prevalent it is.

THE PROBLEM:

AND IT IS HUGE !!!

The Scope of the Problem

My card was stolen, I think, by an employee working in a Subway Sandwich Shop.  He or she just lifted the necessary information from the card.  As you can see from the JPEG above, one in ten Amercian consumers has been a victim of identity theft. Over one and one-half million households have had their bank accounts compromised, and these are 2009 numbers.

Potential Amount of Money

The amount of money stolen from me was approximately $600.00 which means I’m small potatoes to the $4,841 dollar average theft.  In our country right now, that’s approximately three month’s worth of full-time work.   Adding insult to injury; the out-of-pocket expense to right the situation is between $851 and $1,378.

Nearly 50%

Our credit reporting agencies do a horrible job with individual accounts which leads to seventy percent of individuals experiencing fraud having real difficulties in removing the negative numbers from their accounts.

Average Time to Repair an Account

As you can see, it takes an average time of 330 hours to repair the damage,  done and to fully correct the damage requires 5,840 hours.  If time is money—that’s money.

The following JPEGs will show the most common methods of stealing identities and how to protect yourself from the occurence.

Most Common Methods of Identify Theft

How to Protect Yourself

BIOMETRICS:

One method to greatly lessen identity theft is the use of Biometrics. Biometrics is defined by the FBI as follows:

“Biometrics is the science and technology of measuring and analyzing biological data. It is used to uniquely identify individuals by their physical characteristics or personal behavior traits. It is used to allow employees access to certain areas and for general ID purposes. A biometrics system goes through three basic steps: 1. Acquiring data, 2. Encryption. 3. Analysis of data.

Biometrics refers to metrics related to human characteristics. Biometrics authentication (or realistic authentication) is used in computer science as a form of identification and access control. It is also used to identify individuals in groups that are under surveillance.

Biometric identifiers are the distinctive, measurable characteristics used to label and describe individuals.  Biometric identifiers are often categorized as physiological versus behavioral characteristics.  Physiological characteristics are related to the shape of the body.  There are several types of biometric identification schemes:

  • Face: the analysis of facial characteristics
  • DNA
  • Fingerprint: the analysis of an individual’s unique fingerprints
  • Hand geometry: the analysis of the shape of the hand and the length of the fingers
  • Retina: the analysis of the capillary vessels located at the back of the eye
  • Iris: the analysis of the colored ring that surrounds the eye’s pupil
  • Signature: the analysis of the way a person signs his name.
  • Vein: the analysis of pattern of veins in the back of the hand and the wrist
  • Voice: the analysis of the tone, pitch, cadence and frequency of a person’s voice.

Behavioral characteristics are related to the pattern of behavior of a person, including but not limited to rhythm, gait, and voice. Some researchers have coined the term behavior metrics to describe the latter class of biometrics.

The magnetic strip used on all American credit and debit cards is antiquated technology that has served its’ purpose.  As we have seen, it certainly is and can be compromised.  The charts above indicate personal experience that drives this home.   A magnetic strip card is a type of card capable of storing data by modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band of magnetic material on the card. The magnetic strip, sometimes called swipe card or magstripe, is read by swiping past a magnetic reading head. Magnetic stripe cards are commonly used in credit cardsidentity cards, and transportation tickets.

Magnetic recording on steel tape and wire was invented during World War II for recording audio. In the 1950s, magnetic recording of digital computer data on plastic tape coated with iron oxide was invented. In 1960 IBM used the magnetic tape idea to develop a reliable way of securing magnetic strips to plastic cards, under a contract with the US government for a security system. A number of International Organization for Standardization standards, ISO/IEC 7810ISO/IEC 7811ISO/IEC 7812ISO/IEC 7813ISO 8583, and ISO/IEC 4909, now define the physical properties of the card, including size, flexibility, location of the magstrip, magnetic characteristics, and data formats. They also provide the standards for financial cards, including the allocation of card number ranges to different card issuing institutions.

What if, there was a biometric access point on each credit and debit card we owned?    Every time you made a purchase with a card, you had to use biometrics to complete the transaction.  The metric was a singular part of the card with equipment owned and operated by the vendor or merchant to receive the biometric data supplied by each individual.  What if, we do away with passwords and PINs and replace those with biometric information relative to the individual user.  Specific physiological information unique to the user and more importantly the owner of the equipment itself.  Cards, credit and debit, PCs, smart phones, i-pads, tablets, etc—what if.   In my opinion purchase power and digital equipment are headed in this direction.  We know that financial establishments in the European Union are embedding “chips” into credit cards for lessen fraud.  Biometrics is much safer and will provide greater security in the long run.    I think we are headed in that direction.

As always, I welcome your comments.

 

FACIAL RECOGNITION

March 6, 2015


THE TECHNOLOGY:

Humans have always had the innate ability to recognize and distinguish between faces, yet computers only recently have shown the same ability and that ability results from proper software being installed into PCs with memory adequate to manipulate the mapping process.

In the mid 1960s, scientists began working to us computers to recognize human faces.  This certainly was not easy at first. Facial recognition software and hardware have come a long way since those fledgling early days and definitely involve mathematical algorithms.

ALGORITHMS;

An algorithm is defined by Merriam-Webster as follows:

“a procedure for solving a mathematical problem (as of finding the greatest common divisor) in a finite number of steps that frequently involves repetition of an operation; broadly :  a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem or accomplishing some end especially by a computer.”

Some facial recognition algorithms identify facial features by extracting landmarks, or features, from an image of the subject’s face. For example, an algorithm may analyze the relative position, size, and/or shape of the eyes, nose, cheekbones, and jaw. These features are then used to search for other images with matching features. Other algorithms normalize a gallery of face images and then compress the face data, only saving the data in the image that is useful for face recognition. A probe image is then compared with the face data. One of the earliest successful systems is based on template matching techniques applied to a set of salient facial features, providing a sort of compressed face representation.

Recognition algorithms can be divided into two main approaches, geometric, which looks at distinguishing features, or photometric, which is a statistical approach that distills an image into values and compares the values with templates to eliminate variances.

Every face has numerous, distinguishable landmarks, the different peaks and valleys that make up facial features. These landmarks are defined as nodal points. Each human face has approximately 80 nodal points. Some of these measured by the software are:

  • Distance between the eyes
  • Width of the nose
  • Depth of the eye sockets
  • The shape of the cheekbones
  • The length of the jaw line

These nodal points are measured thereby creating a numerical code, called a face-print, representing the face in the database.

In the past, facial recognition software has relied on a 2D image to compare or identify another 2D image from the database. To be effective and accurate, the image captured needed to be of a face that was looking almost directly at the camera, with little variance of light or facial expression from the image in the database. This created quite a problem.

In most instances the images were not taken in a controlled environment. Even the smallest changes in light or orientation could reduce the effectiveness of the system, so they couldn’t be matched to any face in the database, leading to a high rate of failure. In the next section, we will look at ways to correct the problem.

A newly-emerging trend in facial recognition software uses a 3D model, which claims to provide more accuracy. Capturing a real-time 3D image of a person’s facial surface, 3D facial recognition uses distinctive features of the face — where rigid tissue and bone is most apparent, such as the curves of the eye socket, nose and chin — to identify the subject. These areas are all unique and don’t change over time.

Using depth and an axis of measurement that is not affected by lighting, 3D facial recognition can even be used in darkness and has the ability to recognize a subject at different view angles with the potential to recognize up to 90 degrees (a face in profile).

Using the 3D software, the system goes through a series of steps to verify the identity of an individual.

 

The nodal points or recognition points are demonstrated with the following graphic.

POINTS OF RECOGNITION

This is where Machine Vision or MV comes into the picture.  Without MV, facial recognition would not be possible.  An image must first be taken, then that image is digitized and processed.

MACHINE VISION:

Facial recognition is one example of a non-industrial application for machine vision (MV).   This technology is generally considered to be one facet in the biometrics technology suite.  Facial recognition is playing a major role in identifying and apprehending suspected criminals as well as individuals in the process of committing a crime or unwanted activity.  Casinos in Las Vegas are using facial recognition to spot “players” with shady records or even employees complicit with individuals trying to get even with “the house”.   This technology incorporates visible and infrared modalities face detection, image quality analysis, verification and identification.   Many companies use cloud-based image-matching technology to their product range providing the ability to apply theory and innovation to challenging problems in the real world.  Facial recognition technology is extremely complex and depends upon many data points relative to the human face.

Facial recognition has a very specific methodology associated with it. You can see from the graphic above points of recognition are “mapped” highlighting very specific characteristics of the human face.  Tattoos, scars, feature shapes, etc. all play into identifying an individual.  A grid is constructed of “surface features”; those features are then compared with photographs located in data bases or archives.  In this fashion, positive identification can be accomplished. The graphic below will indicate the grid developed and used for the mapping process.  Cameras are also shown that receive the image and send that image to software used for comparisons.

MAPPING AND CAMERAS USED

One of the most successful cases for the use of facial recognition was last year’s bombing during the Boston Marathon.   Cameras mounted at various locations around the site of the bombing captured photographs of Tamerian and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev prior to their backpack being positioned for both blasts.  Even though this is not facial recognition in the truest since of the word, there is no doubt the cameras were instrumental in identifying both criminals.

TAMERIAN AND DZHOKHAR

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is now the only of the court case that will determine life or death.  There is no doubt, thanks to MV, concerning his guilt or innocence.  He is guilty. Jurors in Boston heard harrowing testimony this week in his trial. Survivors, as well as police and first responders, recounted often-disturbing accounts of their suffering and the suffering of runners and spectators as a result of the attack. Facial recognition was paramount in his identification and ultimate capture.

As always, your comments are very welcome.

%d bloggers like this: