How connectivity and biometrics are making cities safer

Fri, 2014-12-19 06:00 -- SCC Staff

Each year $3.7 trillion is lost to fraud globally. "We can solve that," says Bill Maheu, Senior Director for Qualcomm Government Technologies.

How many stories have you read about hospital patients being misidentified and given the wrong medication? Or about children picked up at daycares by someone without authorization to do so? Those can be solved too, Maheu says.

The advent of connectivity and biometrics, he suggests, provides an opportunity to change the world and smart city applications in meaningful ways. Maheu was one of several experts discussing advances in biometrics during the Council's Smart Cities Now forum held recently at Qualcomm headquarters in San Diego. Qualcomm is a Council Lead Partner.

Biometrics on patrol
An example of biometrics in action is a mobile facial recognition app being used by police officers in California. As Pam Scanlon, Director of the Automated Regional Justice Information System (ARGIS) explains, it used to be that if an officer stopped someone in the field if there was a question about who the person really was, they'd have to drive him or her to the station.

With the facial recognition app, the officer in the field can take the suspect's photo and within a matter of seconds the officer will get results with a confidence level based on a check of 1.5 million law enforcement records, along with metadata.

It's been a huge success, according to Scanlon, who says it's been rolled out to about 800 police officers in San Diego and Imperial Counties. And part of its beauty, she says, is there's no a lot of money involved; develop it once and replicate.

Providing universal assurance
James Jasinski, a former FBI agent now working for Fortinet, which specializes in high-performance network security, uses an illustration to showcase the power of biometrics: There's a carjacking and a woman is taken and killed. There's a DNA match to the person arrested, but then he's released. The reason? The carjacker real carjacker was his twin brother.

Biometrics can assure actual identification, Jasinski says, providing end-to-end system security. And it's not just a tool for law enforcement, although he says there's a quintessential role for it in the cybersecurity space. But biometrics can prove useful in authenticating food stamp recipients, for example.

And back to Maheu's point, Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale, PA this month joined a growing number of hospitals that are installing biometric technology to protect patients against medical fraud and identity theft.

“I don’t think (medical identity fraud) is a huge issue here in rural Pennsylvania, but we think it’s a great opportunity to reduce the potential for medical errors and the risk of identity fraud,” hospital CEO David Hoff told the Times-Tribune. “It just adds another layer to the identification process.”