Friday, November 28, 2014

Everything old is new again: Bringing back the Bertillion system...

...also known as anthropometry or Bertillonage, the Bertillon system was established in 1882 by Alphonse Bertillon.

Bertillionage relied upon recording various measurements of the human body that were assumed to remain constant over an adult's lifetime. The example above from Jersey City, New Jersey shows ten measurements.

If one accepts "body measurement" as a rough translation of "biometrics," it's hard to argue that Bertillon wasn't the very first proponent of biometrics for identity management.

Unfortunately for the Bertillion system, twin brothers with the same name, same measurements and at the same prison precipitated its abandonment for the new science of fingerprints, aka dactyloscopy.

All of which brings us to this news from Australia...

"Body recognition" compares with fingerprint ID (Medical Xpress)
University of Adelaide forensic anatomy researchers are making advances in the use of "body recognition" for criminal and missing persons cases, to help with identification when a face is not clearly shown.

PhD student Teghan Lucas is studying a range of human anatomical features and body measurements that can help to identify a person, such as from closed circuit television (CCTV) security videos, no matter what clothing the person may be wearing.
As we have said before, any biometric modality can be useful, especially when it is the only piece if information available and this one is obviously conceived of being helpful in forensic investigations rather than in wide-scale identity management applications. Nevertheless, it's good to see the work of one of the early giants of criminal investigation being carried forward into the 21st century.

See also:
The Bertillon System: An Early ID Management System
The History of Fingerprints (and the Death of the Bertillon System)