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Big Brother Blue seeks biometric anti-terror patents

Tracks eyes, breath, aftershave

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

IBM has filed applications for a dozen patents that seek a whole new level of airport security.

Forget full-body scans, which are currently being touted as the Next Big Thing™ in security in the wake of the Christmas Day Nigerian crotchbomber. We can't even be sure they would have stopped him.

The IBM patent applications, turned up by InformationWeek's Alexander Wolfe, outline technologies that track you as you stroll through an airport, sniff you, check out what you're eating and drinking, scrutinize your attire, watch for "furtive" eye movements, and employ a host of other sensors.

That information is then fed to an inference engine that compares the sensors' data to a knowledge base and alerts security if its set of rules determine you might be a threat. And all of this will be done in real time - or, at least, real enough to nab you before you get on an airliner and activate your lethal underpants.

The core idea of the patents is to use a variety of sensors arrayed throughout an airport, both indoors in out. These sensors attempt to both spot suspicious activity and find already-identified suspects, matched to a knowledge base of possible terrorists.

IW details three of the patents. One, "Detecting Behavioral Deviations by Measuring Eye Movements," describes methods of tracking a subject's eye movements by a battery of cameras looking for "furtive glances, fixed and unblinking stares, concentrated focus, lack of focus, changes in pupil dilation, or any other unusual eye movements." If a subject's eye movements are considered sufficiently shifty, he or she would be identified "as a person of interest" and the gendarmes would move in.

Although the majority of the patent filing deals with identifying as-yet-unknown shifty individuals, the system's cameras could be supplemented with audio recorders and match images and sounds against a knowledge base of known suspects. The system could track a face, license plate, an identification badge, tattoos, scars, an eye's iris pattern, or its retinal pattern. It may also use audio data to identify a person's voice.

A second patent, "Unique Cohort Discovery from Multimodal Sensory Devices," takes the ocular-recognition technology to the next level by expanding the types of sensors to be used to infrared, chemical, biometric, and temperature sensors; motion, metal, and radar detectors; GPS receivers; microphones; photosensors; seismographs; and anemometers. This filing isn't limited to tracking folks in airports, but in all public spaces, including parks and stores.

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