Smart biometric tools: the future of wearable devices

Melon's headband analyzes brain waves in order to help users to focus.

Melon’s headband analyzes brain waves in order to help users focus.

Headbands that analyze brain waves, tablets that measure pupil dilatation, and cars that identify their owner’s voice are some of the main attractions of the annual International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Thanks to the increment of smart biometric tools, the hi-tech industry is now able to create a more customized online experience which promises that the sensorization of consumer tech and wearable electronic devices will become more intimate this year.

Among the most popular biometrics used in the mainstream electronic devices are activity tracking, fingerprint identification, as well as voice and facial recognition. This trend could represent the next step in mobile computing and a new approach into more aspects of everyday life. The boom of smart biometric tools has been aimed by the proliferation of cheaper sensors and advances in computing technology. wearable electronic devices —which include clothes, wristbands, and glasses—are now allowing users to keep track of even ordinary activities such as cooking, reading, or simply listening to music.

Applications

Some ways in which smart biometric tools and sensorization of consumer tech may be used include: Using pupil dilatation to determine whether the user is stimulated and to evaluate mood and interests in order to recommend movies or TV shows with better accuracy; employing fingerprint, iris scanners, palm-print, and voice-recognition software to substitute passwords and build a further barrier of protection from hackers; examining brain-waves, heart rates, and sweat levels through special headbands, socks, bras, and other wearable electronic devices to tell whether the user is having difficulties focusing on a task or if early signs of disease are detected.

The repercussions

As sensorization of consumer tech moves deeper into people’s habits and their biology, the collection and analysis of all the patterns—pupil dilatation, walking style, heart rate, music preferences…— that tech companies are building raise questions about privacy. “Biometric data is personally identifiable information, and the question is how will it be stored and who has access to it,” said Jeramie D. Scott, national security counsel for the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. The main concern is that this kind of data was originally only used by security agencies such as the FBI; now, firms such as Apple, Google, Instagram, and Yahoo gather similar information in their data bases and privacy promoters explain that consumers may never realize how much susceptible information they are disclosing. “There is much incentive to get this valuable information. You can identify an individual with a remarkable level of accuracy just by their gait. And that’s just an example,” Scott elaborated. Most tech firms guarantee that the biometric data will reside on the individual devices only and will not find its way onto the Internet and outsiders.

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Laura Gomez

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