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Forget fingerprinting, voice recognition, or even retinal scans. Access to high-security areas could soon hinge on the way you strut. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s new Pedo-Biometrics Lab are working to perfect a shoe insert that can help monitor access to nuclear power plants, military bases, and other critical infrastructure. Everyone has unique feet—and unique ways of walking. By using sensors to measure foot pressure and gait, the bio-sole’s microcomputer can compare patterns of movement with existing records. If the patterns line up, the insole becomes dormant. If they don’t, it sets off a wireless alarm.

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The lab, which secured $1.5 million in startup funding, is a partnership with Autonomous ID, a Canadian company that specializes in low-cost ID technology. Todd Gray, the company’s president, not only claims that the system is no thicker than the foot pads you find at the drug store, but it can also ID a person within three steps.

Todd Gray, the company’s president, claims that the system can ID a person within three steps.

Prototypes already demonstrate an accuracy rate of more than 99 percent, but the Carnegie Mellon team will broaden the tests to include “a full spectrum of society: big, tall, thin, heavy, athletic, multicultural, on a diet, twins and so on,” he said.

Beyond checking a person’s security clearance, the bio-sole could also have medical applications. Several papers presented this month at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver suggest that changes in a senior person’s pace and stride can augur the onset of dementia.

[Via Associated Press]