NEC Puts Earbud Biometrics to a Different Use

“While NEC says ‘pulse rates and other biometric information’ could be tracked in later iterations of its technology, for now the primary aim is authentication, complemented by user positioning enabled by built-in gyroscopic, geomagnetic, and acceleration sensors.”

NEC Corporation has announced a new earbud device that uses biometric technology to a different end than those of similar offerings: user authentication.NEC Puts Earbud Biometrics to a Different Use

The system enables biometric authentication via the otoacoustic emission, a sound made by the inner ear when the cochlea is stimulated, arising from the vibration of hair cells. According to a statement from NEC, its earbud device’s “otoacoustic authentication technology… recognizes the characteristics of a user’s ear”, suggesting that the emission is used to map the shape of the inner ear, which is presumably unique to the individual.

It’s quite a different application of biometrics compared to other earbud technology like that of Valencell, which is designed to measure biometric signals pertaining to athletic performance and fitness, not to verify users’ identities. While NEC says “pulse rates and other biometric information” could be tracked in later iterations of its technology, for now the primary aim is authentication, complemented by user positioning enabled by built-in gyroscopic, geomagnetic, and acceleration sensors.

NEC says it’s aiming to commercialize this technology by the end of next year, with plans to offer “services that combine individual authentication, indoor positioning, acoustic AR (augmented reality), vital sensing and other technologies”, according to NEC Business Development Division General Manager Tomonori Kumagai.