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The Bone Identity

Posted by Lauren Rugani on April 1, 2009

In the spirit of April Fool’s Day I wanted to post something a little bit ridiculous, like Google revealing its newest Gmail app, Gmail Autopilot by CADIE. (You tried it, didn’t you?) But since making something up would be bad journalism, here is a real story that just happened to make me say… Really??

The latest issue of the International Journal of Biometrics has a pretty standard smorgasbord of retinal recognition and other James Bond-y technologies, until the last article, “Biometric identification using knee x-rays.” The researchers say that this newest method of identification could replace electronic fingerprinting or eye scanning in applications like building security or border control, since it would be harder to fake your bones than to use artificial fingerprints or contact lenses.

After a quick x-ray scan, an algorithm analyzes high-contrast features and textures and matches the image to earlier x-rays. They say that the features can be recognized regardless of any injury or clinical changes to the knee structure, but the technique is still far less accurate than current biometric processes.

The most glaring problem I can think of is what kind of infrastructure will this take? Bringing your children to the police station to have them fingerprinted and knee-scanned as a safety precaution? Installing x-ray scanners at the entrances of high rises and in the middle of harsh landscapes between feuding countries? And how safe is it to get your knees x-rayed every day?

Call me old school, but I’m still partial to swiping my index finger to sign on to my laptop.


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