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University of Southampton's research into clicking ears could crack cash point fraud

Published: 
13 January 2003

The clicking of the human ear could provide a device to prevent fraud, according to scientists at the University of Southampton.

A routine test carried out on infants to detect possible hearing problems may also be used to distinguish between individual, mature adults. Tests carried out by University researchers indicate that if clicks are broadcast into the human ear, a healthy ear will send a response back. These are called otoacoustic emissions.

Professor Andrew Brown, Head of the Electronic Systems Design Group at the University of Southampton, has begun a research project to establish whether these clicks could be programmed into bank computer systems so that they form a means of identifying users when they use cash point machines. On inserting a cash card, a user would be required to pick up a telephone which would play a sequence of clicks at the user and the user's ears would respond with its own series of clicks (otoacoustic emissions) which could be checked against the programmed identity emissions. A similar device could be used to discourage mobile 'phone fraud' as the thief could be prevented from making calls if his ear clicks do not match those programmed into the phone.

"We are very excited about this project", comments Professor Brown. "Many methods have been used to combat cash point fraud - fingerprinting, retinal scanning - but none have been very effective. I believe that this research which is still in the early stages could help in the constant battle against fraud."

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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