30 year from now, in a bank not so far away:
Evil Suspect: “I swear I am 'Mr. Nice Guy'! Now lemme withdraw my money!”
Sceptical Bank Clerk: “Hmm.. You LOOK like him, but shut your mouth, so we can listen to your Ear...”
Shock? Awe? Horror?
Nope it's science! It has been known from quite some time, that our ear makes sounds of its own, sometimes due to a scientific principle called otoacoustic emissions1, other times in protest to the loud music we listen to. In either case, the sounds are too weak to detect using normal microphones.
Although scientists knew about these sounds since the 1940s, it was only with improvements in microphone technology in the 1970s, that it became possible to detect these otoacoustic emissions (OAE).
Recently though it has been suggested that such sounds may in-fact be used for biometric security devices of tomorrow. The variations in each person's OAE can be used as a metric for determining one's identity. The technology is as simple as a microphone!
A good enough microphone embedded in any device can be used to detect these sounds, and accordingly confirm ones identity, and as WTOP suggests, be eventually used by banks to confirm the identity of a person over the phone, or by the phones themselves before they allow someone to make a call!
The technology project has a deadline of 2010, by when they hope to make it feasible for real world usage. To be a successful biometric security factor, it needs to vary sufficiently from person to person, and remain constant throughout the life of a person. These factors are currently in investigation. If this indeed works out, it could change the face of biometric security in the years to come.
I don't know about you all, but I'm just glad to know there's one more thing going on between my ears.
1An otoacoustic emission (OAE) is a sound which is generated from within the inner ear