Mobile phones get facial recognition

Software that could allow existing phones and PDAs to recognise their owners will be demonstrated at a security show in Japan this week
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

Mobile phones could soon be equipped with facial recognition technology, if some biometric sensor software launched by Japanese firm OMRON this week is commercially successful.

OMRON's OKAO Vision Face Recognition Sensor software can compare the face of the user of a PDA, mobile phone or other handheld device with a photo of the user using the device's built-in camera. Checking the authenticity of a person in this way could bring greater security to a device.

"Mobile devices are carrying ever more personal information including address books, schedules and payment information," said Masato Kawade, senior manager of the Sensing Technology Laboratory in Kyoto. "As a result, the sensor [software] has been designed to protect this information even when the mobile phone is lost or stolen."

Many have argued that facial recognition technology still produces too many false positives -- when the system grants access to those it should not -- but in a press release OMRON claimed that the software gives the correct result more than 99 percent of the time. The company was unavailable for interview at the time of writing.

OMRON said that the software is compatible with the Symbian, BREW, embedded Linux and ITRON operating systems. Photos take about a second to register and take up to 450 KB of memory.

The OKAO Vision Face Recognition Sensor will be on show at the Security Show 2005 in Tokyo later this week.

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