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Goodbye passwords, hello biometrics

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Let's face it — passwords suck.

Every day we have to recall all manner of alphanumeric combinations for bank PINs, network log-ons, corporate email, social networking, and e-commerce. According to Microsoft Research, the average user types eight passwords per day.

During a talk at last year's SAE Convergence, Joseph Carra from the US Department of Transportation said, “Passwords have to go” ... a breath of fresh air for those of us who rely heavily on the "forgot password" option. The stage is set, according to Carra, for biometrics to replace passwords in the vehicle.

Using biometrics for driver preferences is nothing new — my favorite example is a car seat that can identify you by the shape of your butt — but using them to replace passwords makes perfect sense.

Ultrasound fingerprinting, iris scans, facial recognition, signature dynamics, voice recognition, keystroke dynamics, hand geometry, skin patterns, and foot dynamics are already being used in enterprise security, law enforcement, border control, ATM transactions, and so on. And second-gen biometrics promise to pump up the Sci-Fi factor with neural wave analysis, electro-physiological biometrics, skin luminescence, body odor, and so on.

Many technologies eventually find their way into the car after becoming popular elsewhere — mobile telephony, media players, GPS navigation, etc. I can’t think of too many world-changing technologies that got their start inside the car. But given the innovative trajectory of today’s auto industry, that may be about to change.

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