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NTHU Research Team Develops ECG Biometric System
Another breakthrough in biometric technology has been made at NTHU! A research team consisting of Assistant Professor Wu Shun-chi of the Department of Engineering and System Science and six of his students has developed a whole new system for recognizing heartbeats. By combining this technology with a mobile payment application, they developed a mobile payment system using cardiological identification called "Instacardeal," which won the top prize in the 2017 Arm Design Contest.
 
"Your heartbeat can only be recognized while you are still alive," says Wu, who previously worked on the development of wearable devices. Electrocardiography (ECG) is a way of recording the electrophysiological activity of the heart, which differs in each person in accordance with the size of the heart and its position in the thoracic cavity. All this got Wu wondering whether the heartbeat could be used in biometrics.
 
Wu soon found that foreign researchers were already working on using the heartbeat as a form of biometric identification, but their calculations were still rough. Thus three years ago he formed a team of students, and by analyzing 285 electrocardiograms they developed a suitable algorithm which resulted in a 98% recognition rate.
 
Wu points out that the existing payment systems using biometric identification all use external features that are easily stolen or counterfeited. Fingerprints can be imitated with silicone, and even photographs of fingerprints can be misused; as for the iris and face, these can be forged by using high definition printing technology. By comparison, an ECG is quite difficult to steal, and when combined with an existing authentication mechanism such as a password, it can provide a highly secure way to make electronic payments.
 
Under the guidance of Wu, team members Chen Peng-Tzu, Shao Naijun, Wei Shiying, Zheng Jingwen, Shang Yenming, and Lin Jiaying developed the Instacardeal mobile payment system, which includes a mobile app, a device for taking the customer’s ECG, and a cloud database.
 
Chen, who graduated earlier this year and now works at the Industrial Technology Research Institute, says that users have to first register their ECG in the cloud database, and when making a purchase the vendor measures the customer’s heartbeat to make sure it matches up with the ECG in the database. In the future, this system can be adapted for access control.
 
The Arm Design Contest provides a showcase for the latest advancements in research and development, and this year for the first time included a short explanatory video in the evaluation criteria. Wu’s team produced a lively and informative video featuring illustrations by Lin, which has been placed on the Facebook fan page of Arm Taiwan, and has already been viewed thousands of times.
 
Chen edited four different versions of the video and showed them to her mother. She reasoned if her mother could understand the content, so would the general public. Lin says that it was challenging to present complicated scientific research in an easy-to-understand format, so after lots of discussion and revision they finally decided to use a spider web pattern to show the relationship between the “internet of things,” third-party payment, and daily life.
 
Wu says that they are now applying for a patent for their heartbeat identification system, and expect that before long it will be produced on a commercial basis and used in a variety of ways.
 

Members of the research team at the Arm Design Contest. From left to right: Chen Peng-Tzu, Assistant Professor Wu Shun-chi, Shao Naijun, and Wei Shiying.

Members of the research team at the Arm Design Contest. From left to right: Chen Peng-Tzu, Assistant Professor Wu Shun-chi, Shao Naijun, and Wei Shiying.


Team members Chen Peng-Tzu (front), Shao Naijun (standing on right), and Wei Shiying (standing on left) displaying their Instacardeal mobile payment system.

Team members Chen Peng-Tzu (front), Shao Naijun (standing on right), and Wei Shiying (standing on left) displaying their Instacardeal mobile payment system.


Wu’s team won first prize in the 2017 Arm Design Contest.

Wu’s team won first prize in the 2017 Arm Design Contest.

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