Body odor could be used as a biometric identifier, with high rates of accuracy, due to chemical patterns in the smell that are unaffected by bodily changes – or deodorant – according to Spanish researchers. The Madrid team claim that smelling devices could be used for “less intrusive” biometrics at border checkpoints.
ZDNet’s report says that the research, by a biometrics unit at Universidad Politecnica de Madrid in collaboration with defense firm Ilia Sistemas, can identify people with 85% accuracy – and that the patterns in odor are not affected by factors such as disease, diet or mood swings. The machined-detectable patterns are also unaffected by the use of deodorant or cologne.
TechTechBoom reports that the researchers, working with defense firm Ilia Sistemas, claim that while current biometric systems such as iris and fingerprint recognition have a low error rate, they are intrusive because individuals associate them with criminal records.
Facial recognition systems are less intrusive, but have a higher error rate. Using odor biometrics has the advantage that a scanner can simply “sniff” a person’s odor as they walk through a booth, for instance at a border checkpoint.
The university’s biometrics department writes on its official site, “Each person has a unique odor, independently from the use of different chemical products like deodorants, cologne and the like.”
“Odour Biometrics attempt to identify individuals based on a unique chemical pattern. Their applications cover from individual identification in airport, to the detection of different components in human body.” The department has previously researched using the technology to sniff out diseases such as cancer.
The researchers write, “Body odor identification is not a new idea considering since it has been conducting for over a century by the police force thanks to the help of bloodhound dogs which are trained for such task. The ability of these dogs to follow the trail of a person from a sample of his or hers personal odor is well known and proofs that using body odor is effective is an effective biometric identifier.”
The system used by the researchers has not yet achieved the accuracy of a dog’s nose, but achieved an error rate of 15% in analysis of 13 people during 28 sessions. The researchers claim that the system has “enormous potential.”
Based on data from 100,000 smartphone users, nearly three-quarters of those polled (74%) believe biometric smartphones will become mainstream in 2014 – and more than half of those polled were interested in the idea of fingerprint ID replacing passwords for card purchases online (50%), and in fingerprints being used in place of all internet passwords (52%).
Whether this extends to devices which sniff people’s ‘distinctive’ odors remains to be seen.
Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security