One small section of flooring, one giant leap for access security.
Biometric security is becoming increasingly familiar, with fingerprints and facial measurements used to unlock doors and devices not only in secure facilities, but in everyday life.
Prince Edward Island-based Stepscan Technologies has developed a new technique for contactless security, believed to be the world’s first solution based on analyzing an individual’s footsteps using high-resolution, pressure-sensitive flooring. They turned to CyberNB as a cybersecurity expert to capitalize on this new technique. UNB’s research experts joined CyberNB and Stepscan to build on this success and test, validate and improve their solution. Thanks to CyberNB and Fredericton’s Knowledge Park, the platform will be installed and tested in the city’s new, state-of-the-art Cyber Centre to provide real-world evaluation.
“My team at UNB uses machine learning to better understand, assess, or control human movement and health,” said Dr. Erik Scheme, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of the Health Technologies Lab at UNB. “This first-of-its-kind project is an exciting opportunity to apply our expertise in the real world to validate and improve Stepscan’s novel, touchless biometric solution.”
Dr. Scheme partnered with Stepscan, who has developed the world's first modular pressure-sensitive flooring capable of capturing a sufficient number of footsteps of natural gait for this use. Stepscan’s proven technology is currently used in military and health contexts, and they were eager to explore this new application, developed by Stepscan’s research and development lead, Dr. Patrick Connor, through an NSERC-supported postdoctoral fellowship. The expertise in machine learning, human-machine interaction, gait analysis and biometrics found at UNB made the institution an ideal partner in the project.
“Through Dr. Connor’s research, we have shown that we are able to analyze various features of a person's gait and foot-floor interactions to differentiate individuals by their walking patterns," said Crystal Trevors, president and CEO of Stepscan Technologies. “We are thrilled to be working with UNB to expand our preliminary work and explore novel machine learning approaches to maximize the performance and robustness of this exciting application for our flooring system.”
Originally developed for medical applications, Stepscan’s interlocking, sensor-enabled tiles provide accurate, high-speed measurement of applied pressure and weight. The flooring can be used to support, among others, physical rehabilitation and fall risk assessment by mapping these measurements over time to understand a person’s gait.
‘Gait’ refers to the specific ways a person moves while walking, based on physical biology and years of learned movement. Muscle and joint movements affect the way a person’s feet touch the ground through the process of taking a step; this complex motion is highly unique and difficult to imitate, making it useful in verifying identity.
CyberNB is a cybersecurity-sector organization that supports collaboration across industry, government and research organizations. CyberNB is based in the new Cyber Centre at Fredericton’s Knowledge Park, Canada’s most advanced facility for cyber defence and critical infrastructure protection.
Stepscan tiles will be installed in this building and used to verify a user’s identity in conjunction with the building’s existing security measures, enabling the system’s accuracy and efficacy to be validated.
“This innovation will leverage gait analytics to enable two-factor authentication, requiring zero-touch high secure access when matched with proximity card systems,” said Tyson Johnson, CEO, CyberNB. “We are excited to support this Canadian innovation and to see this initially deployed in the Cyber Centre.”
Additional tiles will be installed at UNB, supporting further scientific exploration, experimentation and analysis of the technology in a controlled setting, as well as creating opportunities for students to develop in-demand expertise in cybersecurity, biometrics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“We are proud to support our researchers’ contributions to our region’s innovation economy through partnerships that match UNB expertise with industry needs,” said Dr. David MaGee, UNB’s vice-president (research). “This collaboration will no doubt create new potential, new knowledge and new learning opportunities.”
The project will run through May 2024 and is supported by the Government of Canada through $420,001 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Alliance Grants program and $275,000 through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency’s Regional Economic Growth through Innovation program, as well as $200,000 from the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. As a cyber defence collaborator, CyberNB will contribute $210,000 towards the high-security infrastructure access improvements. Stepscan and Knowledge Park will provide additional funding and in-kind support for tile hardware, installation and maintenance, and systems integration and data, valued at $455,000.
“NSERC Alliance grants support research projects led by strong, complementary and collaborative teams that will generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results to create benefits for Canada. We are pleased to support the University of New Brunswick and their partners from government, industry and not-for-profit who are taking big steps in biometric security and providing student training in this increasingly relevant field of research.”
- Marc Fortin, Vice-President, Research Partnerships, NSERC
“We are committed to supporting collaboration between industry and academia to accelerate important breakthroughs in research and technology. ACOA’s investment in UNB will support innovative developments and intellectual properties that will have lasting and significant benefits for cyber and digital health ecosystems in the Atlantic region.”
Jenica Atwin, Member of Parliament for Fredericton, on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for ACOA
“There is a powerfully synergistic combination of research expertise, industrial capability and emerging consumer need in this project. We believe that Dr. Scheme has precisely the right partners involved in this work to lead to a real Atlantic success story. Seeing the innovative new technology of gait biometrics emerge from Dr. Scheme’s research lab underscores the importance of the research grants that NBIF provides every day. By supporting students, equipment, and other needs associated with applied research via grants like the NB Innovation Research Chair, a fertile environment is created for impactful projects like this one.”
- Dr. Laura Richard, Director of Research, New Brunswick Innovation Foundation