Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In London; If You Smoke .. It's About The Print

London skyline over the Thames - Image Credit: UK Biometrics

In London; If You Smoke .. It's About The Print

At the beginning of this month (July, 2007), England initiated its new law that bans smoking within the confines of a public place.

In England, this really means that PUBS have to stop drinkers from smoking inside their establishments, yet keep them around to have another pint! The question becomes, how does one implement an entrance strategy that allow patrons to come in, go out to have a “fag”, and re-enter again without much hassle? … the answer? … Biometrics, of course!

Access systems used for nightclubs - Image Credit: UK Biometrics

Excerpted from Secure ID –

UK's ban on smoking boosts biometric use... at night clubs
Secure ID - Monday, July 16 2007

Smoking inside public places was banned within England starting July first, leaving bars and clubs struggling to secure their entries but still allow for smokers to be let out for a cigarette. So, some night clubs are experimenting with biometric programs to ensure that people can re-enter easily.

Current ticket, swipe card or hand-stamp identification methods can easily be abused since they can be swapped outside the venue, putting owners at risk of allowing under age drinkers or known trouble makers entrance.
Read All>>

Access control image detection devices - Image Credit: UK Biometrics

Further, this from Securezine.com -

Smoking Ban Provides Boost for Biometrics Ltd

The smoking ban which came into force on the 1st of July is providing a welcome boost for Newcastle upon Tyne based, fingerprint entry specialist UK Biometrics Ltd, as nightclubs seek a secure way to allow customers out of their venue for a cigarette.

The city centre location of many nightclubs means installing an outdoor smoking area is not an option. Current ticket, swipe card or hand-stamp identification methods are open to abuse since they can be swapped outside the venue, putting owners at risk of allowing under age drinkers or known trouble makers entrance.

With the UK Biometrics Membership System, developed on Tyneside, nightclub management know that the person re-entering the club after a cigarette break is the person who originally paid to enter.

UK Biometrics Managing Director Matthew James says;

'Allowing exit and re-entry to a venue has always been a feature of our system, but we noticed a massive increase in interest when we attended BAR07 exhibition at Earls Court in early June this year. Since then we have been demonstrating the system to venue owners and managers throughout the UK. Our ability to allow people to leave for a smoke and re-enter is a welcome catalyst to sales'.

The first UK nightclub to install a biometric access system was Blu Bambu in Newcastle‚s Bigg Market in April 2005 when it was haled by Newcastle City Commander, Chief Superintendent Chris Matchell as 'an absolutely brilliant idea'. Since then the system has been installed in clubs and venues throughout the UK.

Customers bring quality ID (passport, driving licence) only once, register their fingerprint on the system, and thereafter staff know exactly who they are.

No actual fingerprints are stored so concerns over human rights can be allayed. Instead the system recognizes key points on the fingerprint and converts these into data which is then encrypted and stored.
Reference Here>>

Sunday, July 22, 2007

ID Gel Tape Approach Grabs More Than Just Fingerprint

Gelatin tape can be used to collect fingerprints and "chemically photograph" them using highly sensitive instruments for chemical analysis. Image Exhibit Credit: Sergei Kazarian et al.

ID Gel Tape Approach Grabs More Than Just Fingerprint
A Breakthrough In CSI

Ones hands can tell a lot about people and their habits. Human hands can and do get into everything … they sense touch, temperature, texture, aid in the sense of smell, and can get into and be directed to places and situations where virtually no other body part can go.

Lately, crime scene investigators have been given a new tool on which one can investigate and exploit the dynamic nature of the hand.

For years, the fingerprint from the Hand was the main information that was important to an investigation … who was here? Modern investigators, however, want to know more … a lot more!

With this new tool, ID Gel Tape, investigators now are able to gather not just the ridges and patterns that are the fingerprint … they are able to grab and analyze the material that is held within the ridges and patterns and develop a greater information profile on the person the fingerprint belonged to.

This from LiveScience (HT: Yahoo! News) –

New Fingerprint Technique Could Reveal Diet, Sex, Race
Charles Q. Choi - Special to LiveScience, LiveScience.com - Fri Jul 20, 3:55 PM ET

A victim might not care if a murderer is a smoker or a vegetarian. But having such knowledge could help police solve a case. Details like this could one day be at their fingertips if a new fingerprinting technique pans out as expected.

Standard methods for collecting
fingerprints at crime scenes, which involve powders, liquids or vapors, can alter the prints and erase valuable forensic clues, including traces of chemicals that might be in the prints.

Now researchers find tape made from gelatin could enable forensics teams to chemically analyze prints gathered at crime scenes, yielding more specific information about miscreants' diets and even possibly their gender and race.

Nimble technique

The gel tape can gather prints from a variety of surfaces, including door handles, mug handles, curved glass and computer screens, just as conventional fingerprint techniques can. The gelatin is then irradiated with infrared rays inside a highly sensitive instrument that rapidly takes a kind of "chemical photograph," identifying molecules within the print in 30 seconds or less, said physical chemist Sergei Kazarian at Imperial College London.

Fingerprints contain just a few millionths of a gram of fluid, or roughly the same amount of material in a grain of sand. That might, however, be enough to determine valuable clues about a person beyond the print itself, such as their gender, race, diet and lifestyle, Kazarian and his colleagues find.

For instance, preliminary results could identify males based on the greater amounts of urea in their fingerprints—urea being the key ingredient of
urine. The complex brew of organic chemicals within prints might also shed light on the age and race of people, and hold traces of items people came into contact with, such as gunpowder, smoke, drugs, explosives, or biological or chemical weapons.

Even a person's diet might be determined from fingerprints, as vegetarians may have different amino acid content than others, Kazarian said.

"More volunteers need to be tested for
statistical information on fingerprints with regard to race, sex and so on, but we believe this will be a powerful tool," he told LiveScience.

Much faster

In addition, unlike conventional fingerprint techniques, the new method did not distort or destroy the original prints, instead keeping them intact and available for further analysis, the researchers said. Their findings are detailed in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Other techniques can analyze chemicals in fingerprints, including methods that
use X-rays. Still, Georgia Tech analytical chemist Facundo Fernandez noted this new technique "is very rapid. You cannot say the same for other approaches." Fernandez was not involved in the current study.

Kazarian said his group's technique is especially good at identifying organic deposits, the main components of fingerprints.
Reference And Additional Story Links Here>>

Friday, July 20, 2007

Digital Imaging Camera Conversion: Records To MP3

Peter Alyea, a digital conservation specialist at the Library of Congress, scans a record from the 1930s. Image Credit: Nell Boyce/NPR

Digital Imaging Camera Conversion: Records To MP3

Digital imaging technology is an amazing tool. It provides biometric information to help keep us safe, it reads symbologies so that we can get information delivered to us through a camera and sofware (up to 20 seconds of low-res video on our cellphone screens - a 4 meg file), and now this type of technology can take a picture of a round phonograph record and deliver a sound reproduction via a MP3 file converted from reading the grooves of the record.

What more versitility does one want from a technology?

Excerpts from National Public Radio -

You Can Play the Record, but Don't Touch
by Nell Boyce - Morning Edition, July 16, 2007

At the Library of Congress, in a small, white room with bright red carpet, physicist Carl Haber sits down to play a record from 1930. It's a recording of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe." But here's the strange thing: This record is broken.

"It looks like somebody just got hungry and took a bite out of it," says Haber. He has positioned the record on a turntable and fitted the broken piece back into place, like it's a jigsaw puzzle. "If we spun this thing fast, the piece would come flying off, you know, and maybe hit somebody," he says.

But this turntable doesn't spin like a normal record player. And there's no needle hovering over the record. Instead, there's a camera linked to a computer. It snaps detailed images of the groove cut into the disc, and uses the images to reconstruct the sound without ever touching the record.

Haber got the idea for this setup a few years ago, when he was driving to work and listening to NPR. He heard a report on how historic audio recordings can be so fragile that they risk being damaged if someone plays them by dragging a needle over their surfaces. It made Haber wonder if he could get the sound off old recordings without touching their delicate surfaces. He worked with a colleague, Vitaliy Fadeyev, and they managed to reconstruct sound on a 1950 recording of "Goodnight, Irene" performed by the Weavers.

This was just a proof of principle. They have now developed their hands-off technique to the point that it's being tested at the Library of Congress to see whether it's good enough to someday scan the library's vast archive of sound recordings.

One thing they've learned: A broken record is no problem. Haber clicks a mouse and the camera takes pictures of the groove on "Iolanthe."

"And by taking these pictures, it essentially just unwinds the record into a big long stripe," Haber explains.

A scanned photo image of the grooves in the record from "Hemlock Blues" by David Lee Johnson from the early 1950s. IRENE skips right over the scratched parts (as seen above) of normally unplayable records. Image Credit: physicist Carl Haber

The picture appears on Haber's computer screen. It looks like a black and white photo of a tire tread.

"Here's the break," he says, pointing to a line. "You can see, there's a little piece of dust, little scratch marks on it." The computer ignores all these flaws as it translates the images into sound.

IRENE was installed at the Library of Congress late last year. The library has millions of old audio recordings, and many are in poor condition or use obsolete formats. Peter Alyea, a digital conservation specialist at the library, says that to play old records, you often need trained technicians who can do things like choose the proper needle out of dozens of options. But if IRENE lives up to its potential, Alyea says, anyone could make a digital copy of an old record.
Alyea says it's like a photocopy machine for sound. "It brings the possibility of automation much closer to reality for these kinds of materials."

And given that he has thousands and thousands of records that he would like to digitize and make widely available, the prospect of automation is hugely attractive.

Exactly how good is IRENE at making digital copies?
One test involves a disc etched with simple tones to see how well IRENE can read some old-fashioned discs coated with lacquer. The library has thousands of these one-of-a-kind records. The format is obsolete.

But luckily, Haber says, audio engineer George Horn still makes them at Fantasy Studios in California. Horn cut some discs with well-defined tones. Haber says, IRENE can reproduce the tones amazingly well.

"The machine is not adding its own color. It's not adding anything of its own nature," he says.

Haber says IRENE does take some things away. He plays one record from 1953, a Les Paul and Mary Ford recording of the song "Johnny Is the Boy for Me." This record has a bad skip in it that's very apparent on a regular record player. But IRENE skips over the skip like it's not there.

IRENE, an audio-recording system, can scan old and damaged records and wax cylinders ... and make digital recordings from them. Image Credit: physicist Carl Haber

IRENE isn't perfect. It removes pops and clicks, but it sometimes has a hissing noise in the background. Still, the Library of Congress finds all this encouraging enough that it has started testing the system on hundreds of discs, what Alyea describes as a kind of simulation of what a mass digitization project would be like.

When taking flat photographs, it can create a three-dimensional image of the groove on a record, or on an old wax cylinder. Haber been working with the University of California's Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, to reconstruct sound from field recordings, like one wax cylinder made around 1911 that features a Native American called Ishi.

Haber says it's amazing to hear these voices from the past. "There's this whole human and cultural component to what we're looking at," says Haber, whose main job is studying subatomic particles at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. "That makes it wonderful."

Read All (audio examples of IRENE conversion compared at story source)>>

Try doing this with laser technology!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hot Technology Made Simple ... And On EBAY

Everybody knows that the iPhone can make phone calls, play movies & music, surf the web, and a lot more.

But, Will It Blend?

That is the question.

EBAY Link For Blended iPhone>>

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pay-At-Table Systems Are Just Desserts

Wayne Smith, a patron at Ray's Killer Creek restaurant in Alpharetta, Ga., swipes his credit card through a device that allows customers to pay for their meal at the table. Image Credit: Jason Bronis / AP

Pay-At-Table Systems Are Just Desserts

Little by little, credit card skimming by restaurant table waiting staff is a problem creeping into some of the finer restaurants.

This practice of “skimming”, where the waiter has the equipment to be able to swipe and capture the credit card charging information from the magnetic stripe, is becoming one of the easiest identity theft scams to pull off because the equipment is relatively inexpensive and easy to conceal.

This practice and payment “Dance” at the end of a good meal out doesn’t have to exist.

Fine dining, sit-down restaurants can nip this problem in the bud and have the turnaround time of the customer at the table be reduced (thus making available a higher number of meals served at peak serving times) by having the server process the check at the table along with the delivery of the dessert.

Excerpts from AP via MSNBC -

Restaurants test table card readers
Rise in 'skimming' scams pressuring restaurateurs to adopt technology

By Greg Bluestein - Associated Press - Updated: 11:29 a.m. PT July 6, 2007

ALPHARETTA, Ga. - It's become routine for customers to swipe their credit or debit cards at consoles in fast-food joints, gas stations and grocery stores. So why do we still hand over the plastic at sit-down restaurants?

Pay-at-the-table systems are popular in Europe and other parts of the world, but they haven't yet caught on in the U.S., largely because equipment makers haven't been able to point to a reason why restaurateurs should invest in the gear.
"Restaurants are the last holdout where you still give up your credit card. That's why we think this is the next logical step," said Paul Rasori, VeriFone Inc.'s vice president of marketing.

Verifone's system, called the VX-670, is about the size of thick remote control and sports a square LCD screen and a numerical keypad. It accepts debit and credit cards and can automatically add the tip.

Once the customer swipes a card, the information is sent wirelessly to a computer in the restaurant. A tiny printer spits out a receipt.

Apriva Class A Certifies Hypercom's Optimum M4100 Blade, June 20, 2007 -- Hypercom's rugged Optimum M4100 Blade is the first truly mobile credit/debit terminal designed to comply with current global security standards and the smallest product of its kind. It weighs 7.1 ounces; is 4.9 inches long, 2.7 inches wide, and 1.15 inches deep; features GPRS and Wi-Fi communications; top-of-the-line high-contrast full-color signature capture touch screen; and other state-of-the-art features for restaurants, delivery services and other businesses worldwide. Image & Caption Credit: Business Wire

The Blade, a competitor from rival Hypercom Corp., is a sleek, hand-held unit. But it also sports a touch screen that can double as a menu and an optional contactless reader that lets customers wave their cards instead of swiping them.
Some studies suggest as much as 70 percent of all cases of credit-card skimming stem from restaurant scams. A 2005 report by Fair Isaac, the fraud-detection specialist, detailed how handheld skimming devices could take seconds to transmit data wirelessly to a fraudster and advised merchants to use table-side devices so cards are always in a customer's hand.

The pay-at-the-table manufacturers say there's another benefit: greater productivity.

"If we can tell them they can increase table turns on peak hours by 1 to 4 percent, what's that worth to businesses?" said Scott Goldthwaite, vice president of Hypercom's global business development.
Neither Verifone nor Hypercom — would reveal the price of the units, but both have launched tests in U.S. markets to gauge how the American diner reacts. Both companies specialize in secure electronic payment devices. Hypercom sells devices in Europe, China and Latin America. Verifone sells in Europe, Israel and Southeast Asia.

At Ray's Killer Creek, an upscale steakhouse in the north Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, the VeriFone system didn't take long to catch on.

Jim Wahlstrom, the restaurant's operating partner, spent roughly 10 minutes on briefing his waiters about the technology.

"We're all used to grocery stores and ATM machines," Wahlstrom said. "We all operate with our credit cards and debit cards in our daily lives."

As the happy-hour crowd filed into the restaurant on a recent weekday afternoon, many seemed unfazed by the new way to pay.

Read All>>

This video report from CNET -

Report for Pay-At-Table Systems begins at 1:15 time left and goes to 0:46.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Access Says PALM OS Still Breathing

Access Says PALM OS Still Breathing

The death of the PALM OS has been put off ... at least temporarily.

Recent reports as to the introduction of the new Linux OS that was to be introduced by Access have confirmed a delay of the Linux replacement OS due to the difficulties encountered in an overall conversion of the PALM approach.

This from Telcoms.com -

Palm OS: Reports of my death "exaggerated"
Telcoms.com - 03 July 2007

You thought Palm's operating system was a stiff. Devoid of life, it is in death. It has joined the choir invisible. It is, indeed, an ex-gadget. After all, development work stopped when PalmOS v6 was cancelled in June, 2005, and since then the biggest-selling Treo has been the Windows Mobile-based 750. If you want a 3G Palm, you've got to pick a Windows Treo; PalmOS v5.4, the last version from February, 2004, doesn't support fast data connections.

Then, Palm went on to sell the OS intellectual property rights, not to mention the software division PalmSource, to Japanese Linuxco Access, and started work on its own mobile Linux distro. So, surely that was it? Well, it turns out that the Linux project is harder than they thought. In April, CEO Ed Colligan promised it would be ready by the end of the year.

But now, during an analyst call, he confessed that the new OS won't be ready until next year. Further, there would be new products based on the Palm OS, as well as Windows Mobile, in the meantime. It remains to be seen whether Palm is going to keep hammering at its own Linux; after all, Access's ALP is already a PalmOS-like interface on top of an embedded Linux. Or they could try one of the existing MobiLinuxen, such as the Motorola-championed LiMO, or LiPS.

Reference Here (subscription required)>>