How 3D Scanning will Transform Mobile Authentication
I’m a fan of 3D cameras I have to confess. I enjoy playing tennis on a Wii using a Microsoft Kinect - a very popular application of 3D camera technology. But as a security professional, the application I am most excited about is the one that delivers fast, secure, and virtually spoof-proof authentication on smartphones and tablets.
3D scanning was once the domain of large, unwieldy devices that required a lot of energy and complex software to operate but the new generation of 3D scanning solutions are comparatively Lilliputian. The one that Apple is including in their new iPhone is tiny, smaller than a quarter, meaning that this new generation of cameras can be deployed in mobile devices for the first time.
Once Apple has opened the floodgates, all the other smartphone and mobile device makers will have no choice but to jump on the 3D scanning bandwagon. Not only for brand enhancement but as a market differentiator to drive attributable revenue. Allied Market Research predicts that 80 percent of smartphones could carry 3D sensors by 2018, and the application of 3D cameras in smartphones has the potential to garner revenue of $2.02 billion by 2020. They now have low enough production costs and are comparatively easy to manufacture to begin making major inroads.
Say goodbye to passwords, fingerprint readers spoofed by Gummy Bears and 2D RGB-based face recognition solutions that will open a phone using a picture. These new 3D cameras, powered by incredibly sophisticated software, will automatically build a model of a user’s face from many different perspectives, capturing up to thousands of data points.. And not to worry if you have plastic surgery or grow a beard – the model is automatically updated if the user’s appearance changes.
Two-dimensional face recognition security protocols have historically captured the size and location of features such as the relative distance between a person’s eyes, the length of his nose, or the size of his mouth. Unfortunately, these 2D systems are still easily hackable using relatively low-tech substitutes such as photos, videos, and masks.
3D mobile camera systems measure and log a complex set of data to create a “point cloud” that includes curves and other information that simply can’t be captured by today’s standard RGB mobile cameras. Human faces have contours and 3D cameras process the depth information to identify these nuances. Any object that lacks the unique depth characteristics of the authorized user’s face is rejected.
There are currently three common Depth or Range Imaging technologies that are being applied to face scanning authentication solutions: Stereo, Time-of-Flight and Structured Light.
One of my preferred solutions is “Time-of-Flight” which has broad applicability across many different use cases including obstacle avoidance, gesture recognition, tracking objects, measuring volumes and many more.
Here is how it works. Time-of-Flight 3D depth sensors emit a very short pulse of infrared light and each pixel in the camera sensor measures the return time. The resulting data includes measurements of the distances between various components of the face.
Because it generates its own light, a Time-of-Flight 3D camera solution can authenticate a user in any setting from bright, direct sunlight to total darkness – and every level of illumination in between. And it’s fast! These new mobile-ready 3D cameras provide secure and fast face authentication in well under 100ms, often with the first frame of data. The result is highly secure, virtually spoof-proof secure authentication delivered as the user picks up their phone.
I am excited about the power of 3D face scanning authentication to transform security protocols at home, at work, or on the road and finally deliver secure, virtually spoof proof authentication on smartphones and mobile devices.
Let’s face it – we are looking at a new era in mobile authentication and without getting out of my depth, truly overdue!
George Brostoff is the founder and CEO of SensibleVision, a leader in 3D face scanning authentication technology, headquartered in Cape Coral, Florida. He has founded three successful tech companies, holds seven patents and grew up working in a family business.