- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003


Watch your step. The Pentagon is developing a radar-based device that can identify people by the way they walk for use in a new antiterrorist surveillance system.

Operating on the theory that an individual’s walk is as unique as a signature, the Pentagon has financed a research project at the Georgia Institute of Technology that has been 80 to 95 percent successful in identifying people.

If the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, orders a prototype, the individual “gait signatures” of people could become part of data to be linked together in a vast surveillance system that the Pentagon agency calls Terrorism Information Awareness.

At a cost of less than $1 million over the past three years, Georgia Tech’s Gene Greneker has been aiming a 1-foot-square radar dish at 100 test volunteers to record how they walk. Elsewhere at the Atlanta school, DARPA is funding other researchers to use video cameras and computers to try to develop distinctive gait signatures.

“One of the nice things about radar is we see through bad weather, darkness, even a heavy robe shrouding the legs, and video cameras can’t,” Mr. Greneker said.

And the target doesn’t have to be doing a Michael Jackson moonwalk to be distinctive, because the radar detects small frequency shifts in the reflected signal off legs, arms and the torso as they move in a combination of different speeds and directions. “There’s a signature that’s somewhat unique to the individual,” he said.

The researchers are anticipating ways the system might be fooled.

“A woman switching from flats to high heels probably wouldn’t change her signature significantly,” Mr. Greneker said. “But if she switched to combat boots, that might have a difference.”

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