Biometrics.

It's the type of word which you see come up in tweets from Wired. It's the type of word rappers will use because it sounds impressive and rhymes with other equally impressive-sounding words like plyometrics and electromagnetics.

But as impressive as it sounds, the reality of what biometrics means to our development as a species is underestimated. Not by all, it is important to point out, but certainly by those who don't fully grasp the level of high tech solutions which can be created through its study.

I was one of those people up until very recently. Staying close to all of the latest technological trends is something which is vital to those who work within the communications industry. But there is so much out there and finding time to research them all can sometimes feel like ice skating uphill.

What it does mean is that when you do come across something which is undeniably impressive, and which could possibly have a very real and tangible impact on the way we work, it is important that we share these developments with each other.

So here we go. Biometrics - simply put, it is the study and mimicry of high tech solutions found in nature. And once you have all of that information, asking how we can reformulate the natural materials and strategies to create new materials and devices which outperform anything we have today.

There are already some very real examples of this in everyday, household technology. Apple's iPhone 6 features Touch ID technology which allows you to access your phone with the perfect password - your fingerprint.

There are also examples of biometrics with far loftier goals. A great example of this is India's national ID program called Aadhaar - the largest biometric database in the world. It is a biometrics-based digital identity assigned for a person's lifetime, verifiable online, instantly in the public domain, at any time, from anywhere, in a paperless way. It is designed to enable government agencies to deliver a retail public service securely based on biometric data (fingerprint, iris scan and face photo), along with demographic data (name, age, gender, address, parent/spouse name, mobile phone number) of a person.

Although my initial reaction to this latter case is one of alarm, especially as issues of privacy and discrimination are (quite rightly) very prominent in the minds of the general public, it is important to note that we are still very much in the early stages of developing biometrics-based technology for our own benefit. The weighing of all the pros and cons is still being done as the implications of such innovation are being forecast every day.

But let's get back to what this type of technology can mean to the communications industry.

The most interesting use came to me via a Ted Talk by Joanna Aizenburg - a professor of Material Sciences at Harvard's School of Engineering & Applied Sciences.

In this presentation she makes the important point that mimicry of high tech solutions in nature doesn't just mean creating a synthetic copy of a deep sea sponge or a type of star fish. It means taking the idea and combining it with a completely different organism in order to create something entirely new.

An example of this would be the new concept of Wetting in Colour Technology. I'm not going to go into the details of the actual science behind this through fear of getting any part of it wrong, but please check out the video for a more detailed explanation.

The important part is that by taking certain properties found in the wings of a butterfly, the properties which make the wings beautifully iridescent due to the arrangement of physical structures interacting with light to produce a particular colour, scientists are now developing technology which allows materials to change colour in response to environment.

Just think about that for a second. Materials which change colour in response to environment - namely temperature or humidity. Now apply that to clothing and already several very interesting options open up. The most interesting of these, in my opinion, is clothing or wearable tech designed for either home or work, which therefore changes colour with your emotions. Imagine wearing a bracelet which could turn red when you were angry or stressed, or green when you're calm.

Again my initial response to this was one cynical. Why would you want your colleagues being able to read your emotions? Isn't an important part of business being able to control your emotions?

It poses some interesting questions. What if it could be used to help individuals better understand their own emotions, and what triggers them? Is the natural instinct to not show our frustrations a healthy one? Could this aid people who have difficulty reading and responding to other people's emotions?

To be honest, I haven't made up my mind on this. The implications of rapidly developing technology can be equally exciting and terrifying. Personally I believe in the pioneering spirit which technology seems to have rekindled in the 21st Century, and anything which makes us think differently about the way we interact with each other is a good thing.

But what do you think?





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