June Research Picks

The brainwave behind biometrics

Your own unique brain waves as recorded by an electro-encephalogram could be used to generate a secret keyword or PIN number, according to a collaboration between researchers in the UK and Egypt. The team had previously demonstrated that a single channel output could be used to generate a unique PIN number with no error for three volunteers. However, long-term studies show that the single-channel of brain wave signal is not sufficiently stable over a period of three months. They have now demonstrated that multiple-channel EEG recording is necessary to make this approach to PIN access codes reproducible. Given that this kind of biometric would be much more secure than a memorized PIN entered on a keypad or touch screen and be very difficult to spoof makes the pursuit of an EEG biometric and important target of biometrics and security research.

Palaniappan, R. and Revett, K. (2014) ‘PIN generation using EEG: a stability study’, Int. J. Biometrics, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp.95–105.

Ultrasound without the speckles

Ultrasound imaging is a common diagnostic tool for examining the soft tissues of the body, lesions within different organs, wear and tear to joints, and, of course in obstetrics for the purposes of monitoring the progress and growth of the unborn child. Unfortunately, the images generated from even, cutting edge ultrasound machines suffer from high levels of noise, speckles, that make interpreting a given scan in detail an onerous task even for the expert sonographer.

Now, researchers at the Government College of Technology, in Coimbatore, India, have developed a robust despeckling algorithm that can reduce such noise in an ultrasound scan and make the detection of low-contrast lesions and details much easier. Their successful implementation of “wavelet thresholding” using a genetic algorithm allows them to train the system to reduce the speckle noise in an image so that it works more effectively than any current algorithm used in the computer attached to even cutting-edge ultrasound scanners.

Saraniya, O. and Ezhilarasi, M. (2014) ‘Despeckling of medical ultrasound images by wavelet threshold optimisation’, Int. J. Biomedical Engineering and Technology, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.1–17.

 

Managing the water crisis

Despite the abundance of water in many parts of the world, arid regions often suffer serious and life-threatening droughts. For many people across the globe access to safe and clean drinking water is a growing problem and one that is likely to worsen and spread given the predicted impact of global warming and climate change. Australian researchers suggest that the global water crisis is a management crisis, rather than a crisis of resource scarcity. They suggest that household water management expertise is now needed so that water conservation and re-use strategies can be implemented at the local and domestic level more effectively in arid regions of the developed world and perhaps the developing world too.

Harriden, K. (2014) ‘Big Water needs ‘little’ people: improving water resource management by including households’, Int. J. Water, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp.111–127.

 

Online shopping in Nigeria

The global phenomenon of e-commerce has spread to all four corners of the world more or less. However, a Malaysian study of adoption in one of the fastest-growing of the newly emerging economies of the developing world, Nigeria, has not yet become apparent. The study shows that despite the country’s large population and rapid development in recent years – it is one of the “MINT” nations of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, after all – poor infrastructure continues to hinder the adoption of e-commerce as an online alternative to conventional trading and shopping. The team suggests that there is a need to improve government policies and information technology services as well as to improve education in IT if Nigeria is to develop and benefit from the e-commerce revolution significantly.

Oluyinka, S., Shamsuddin, A., Wahab, E., Ajagbe, M.A. and Enegbuma, W.I. (2013) ‘A study of electronic commerce adoption factors in Nigeria’, Int. J. Information Systems and Change Management, Vol. 6, No. 4, pp.293–315.

Author: David Bradley

Award-winning, freelance science writer based in Cambridge, England.