NOVEMBER 30--Xilinx Inc. (San Jose, CA; www.xilinx.com), a programmable logic supplier, and Pixel Velocity (www.pixel-velocity.com), an image-processing solutions company, have announced a collaboration that resulted in advanced 3-D facial-recognition technology. Using the advanced features of Xilinx Virtex-II Pro FPGAs, Pixel developed the biometrics technology to replace today's limited two-dimensional (2-D) technology in applications such as airport-surveillance cameras and automated travel kiosks in airports throughout the world.
"Each Xilinx Virtex-II Pro chip provides the image-processing power of 300 Pentium processors. By stacking multiple Xilinx FPGAs together, we achieved an unprecedented 1000x-performance gain to enable this revolutionary product," said Eric Sieczka, CEO of Pixel Velocity. "Image processing requires a large amount of processing power--the Xilinx Virtex-II Pro FPGAs, with embedded IBM PowerPC processors and high-performance fabric, were the only programmable chips available with the power needed to make this technology possible."
Biometric facial-recognition technology is currently available in a few select airports. More than 28 countries have mandated facial-recognition technology be in place by 2007. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is requiring the top 20 US airports to install biometric technology pilot programs. The FAA is also working to produce the "trusted traveler" program, designed to expedite security clearance for frequent flyers identified by the FAA as "safe travelers."
"Facial biometrics are resistant to changes in skin tone, hair color, or facial hair. The technology actually measures the underlying structure of the face--the bones and muscles that identify who we are," said David Bloom, solution manager at Safe-Travel Airport Security Company in Detroit, MI. "Because the technology is so noninvasive, 3-D facial recognition will ultimately compete with current identification technology throughout our lives. You will begin to see this technology replace your PIN number at the local ATM, your photo ID at work, and ultimately retail purchases, just to name a few."
With the ability to identify "facial fingerprints" of known terrorists, plans are also in place to utilize this same non-intrusive method for homeland security screening at US border crossings and international airport customs departments. The US is already issuing biometric visas and plans to start issuing biometric passports by the end of next year, while the European Union recently announced it will develop new visa, passport, and immigration systems incorporating biometrics.
"3-D biometrics are ideally suited for security because we anticipate it will applied to a large population with 99 percent accuracy. Current 2-D facial recognition methods offer only a fraction of the accuracy that's possible with 3-D imaging," said Dirk Colby, a biometrics researcher at Michigan State University.
Like the mobile phone, biometric devices are becoming smaller, safer, and cheaper, thanks in part to the dramatic cost reductions of Xilinx chips. "Many applications that can be achieved with a $20 chip today were simply not possible a few years ago when prices for the same performance ran around $2000 per chip. Access was limited to organizations with a lot of money like the Department of Defense," continued Sieczka. "Working closely with Xilinx, we've taken the same advanced technology and applied it to applications that impact the everyday lives of the average consumer. We look forward to even more amazing possibilities with the new Xilinx line of Virtex-4 FPGAs."
"Pixel's 3-D imaging promises to enable the introduction of many revolutionary products that will impact our lives. Xilinx is proud to be the enabling technology behind it," said Wim Roelandts, president, CEO, and chairman of the board at Xilinx. "Our new Virtex-4 FPGAs offer a menu of choices and features for our customers, thereby further reducing cost to enable today's leading-edge applications such as Pixel's 3-D technology."
Labeled one of the "top ten emerging technologies" by MIT Technology Review, biometrics is primed for explosive growth. In addition to security, Pixel is busy tailoring its 3-D biometric technology for other applications such as video conferencing and low-cost medical imaging. According to the International Biometric Group, global biometrics revenues are expected to reach $4.6 billion by 2008, with $800 million specifically in facial recognition revenues.
Introduced earlier this year, Xilinx Virtex-4 FPGAs deliver more options than other FPGA families. With more than 100 technical innovations, the Virtex-4 family consists of 17 devices and three domain-optimized platforms. A multiplatform approach makes it possible for customers to select the optimal mix of resources for their application to achieve the highest functionality and performance at the lowest cost.
Formed in 2001, Pixel Velocity designs, manufactures, and markets advanced reconfigurable image computing systems. In addition to providing a family of off-the-shelf cameras and processing products, the company works closely with technology partners leveraging this advanced technology to develop novel 2-D and 3-D solutions in the areas of biometrics, industrial machine vision, medical imaging, and defense.