The Pentagon has developed a new means of identifying people in conflict zones: laser beams.
The Jetson prototype, developed for U.S. special forces, bounces a laser beam off a person to read their unique heartbeat signature, IDing them in seconds. The system is 95 percent accurate and can be used at distances of at least 200 meters, making them useful at locations such as military checkpoints (pictured above) and elsewhere.
In the field, American special forces troops frequently must keep track of large numbers of individuals living and working in their operating areas. These could be intelligence assets, known terrorists, or even just civilians. U.S. military personnel must be able to identify these people quickly and efficiently, and the threat of suicide bombers and insider attacks means the farther away and more discreetly they can ID them, the better.
The new biometric sensor works by bouncing a laser beam off a human target. The method, called laser vibrometry, measures the target’s heartbeat off the surface of the skin. Each person’s heartbeat is slightly different, making it possible to identify people by the surface movement caused by the heartbeat. The laser can even read a heartbeat through layers of clothing.
The process of identifying a person from a distance is called remote cardiac sensing. Supporters say it’s more effective than other means. Facial recognition can be defeated by wearing sunglasses or a disguise to break up the person’s facial profile. Gait analysis, or identifying someone through their physical profile while walking, could be defeated by someone aware he or she is being monitored and actively changing their gait. But it's very difficult, if not impossible, to modify your own unique cardiac rhythm.
Cardiac sensing isn’t perfect, as it requires 30 seconds of laser contact for a successful reading. It also requires the subject to be sitting or standing. But it is 95 percent successful, and the Pentagon thinks it could be accomplished at ranges greater than the existing 200 yards. Ultimately, it appears likely that troops would use multiple sensing methods, each covering the weaknesses of the other, to achieve positive identification in the field.
Source: MIT Technology Review
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