“One interesting aspect of my work in this field is its application to cryptography and information protection. Increasingly, biometric data like fingerprints and iris scans are being used to verify identity and provide security for everything from bank accounts to passport details. However, unlike conventional passwords, fingerprints are ‘noisy data’ that can’t be reproduced exactly. They include random minute variations every time they’re scanned: smudges, displacements, shifts in position or pressure on the screen.
As a result, the cryptographic one-way algorithms that are commonly used to protect passwords can’t normally be used on fingerprints. Moreover, conventional encryption makes them – and the information they protect – vulnerable to inside attacks by those who have access to biometric databases. So we had to discover a new way to securely store biometric data. Our eventual solution, related to digital watermarking, actually emerged from work we had been doing on protecting information on CDs and DVDs. This provides a good example of how you can work on one project and make discoveries that become a breakthrough in another field as well.
Being elected a Fellow of the IEEE is a great honor. This international recognition has helped our business by demonstrating that we’re coming up with world-class secure solutions. It also shows that the work we do at Philips really makes an impact, both on the scientific and the industrial level.”