Research Article: Beat-ID: Towards a computationally low-cost single heartbeat biometric identity check system based on electrocardiogram wave morphology

Date Published: July 18, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Joana S. Paiva, Duarte Dias, João P. S. Cunha, Zhong-Ke Gao.


In recent years, safer and more reliable biometric methods have been developed. Apart from the need for enhanced security, the media and entertainment sectors have also been applying biometrics in the emerging market of user-adaptable objects/systems to make these systems more user-friendly. However, the complexity of some state-of-the-art biometric systems (e.g., iris recognition) or their high false rejection rate (e.g., fingerprint recognition) is neither compatible with the simple hardware architecture required by reduced-size devices nor the new trend of implementing smart objects within the dynamic market of the Internet of Things (IoT). It was recently shown that an individual can be recognized by extracting features from their electrocardiogram (ECG). However, most current ECG-based biometric algorithms are computationally demanding and/or rely on relatively large (several seconds) ECG samples, which are incompatible with the aforementioned application fields. Here, we present a computationally low-cost method (patent pending), including simple mathematical operations, for identifying a person using only three ECG morphology-based characteristics from a single heartbeat. The algorithm was trained/tested using ECG signals of different duration from the Physionet database on more than 60 different training/test datasets. The proposed method achieved maximal averaged accuracy of 97.450% in distinguishing each subject from a ten-subject set and false acceptance and rejection rates (FAR and FRR) of 5.710±1.900% and 3.440±1.980%, respectively, placing Beat-ID in a very competitive position in terms of the FRR/FAR among state-of-the-art methods. Furthermore, the proposed method can identify a person using an average of 1.020 heartbeats. It therefore has FRR/FAR behavior similar to obtaining a fingerprint, yet it is simpler and requires less expensive hardware. This method targets low-computational/energy-cost scenarios, such as tiny wearable devices (e.g., a smart object that automatically adapts its configuration to the user). A hardware proof-of-concept implementation is presented as an annex to this paper.

Partial Text

In the past few years, identity recognition methods that are safer and more trustworthy in comparison with the conventional techniques used to date have been extensively explored, even for subject identification among a small group of persons. Identity recognition has found application in several facets of life, including security technology, e-commerce, data protection, entertainment, remote access, voting, health, and social services [1, 2]. However, traditional identity recognition methods, such as passwords or encryption keys, have numerous constraints. These methods can be vulnerable and inefficient for sensing a certain physiological change or simply for identifying a specific person. Consequently, researchers began investigating the possibility of using biometric measures in order to recognize a person. Currently, biometrics-based identity recognition is a rapidly growing research area, not only because of the increasing demands for security in healthcare and law enforcement applications [3], but also for implementation in novel and attractive systems for entertainment applications. In addition to security or other technological industries, the entertainment sector has also been applying biometrics in the industry of user-adaptable objects to make them even more user-friendly [4]. A good example of this link-up is the use of biometrics as a scientific methodology for analyzing and measuring player experience in the video games industry [5]. Indeed, human-interactive technologies have been extensively explored in the past few years to develop smart objects and systems capable of interacting with their user (from a restrict group of persons, for example, a family) for a number of different so-called “intelligent” applications within the ever-growing market of the Internet of Things (IoT). These systems are being designed to perform certain actions according to user preferences, emotional and health states, personal needs, etc. [4–9].

Our method is characterized by the following steps: ECG preprocessing, feature creation, feature processing, classifier training, and testing. During ECG preprocessing, the fiducial points Q, R, S, and T are detected, after the raw ECG signal is filtered [99]. The R points were located by applying the widely used Pan Tompkins algorithm [100]. The remaining fiducial points (Q, S, and T) were identified after applying a second-order 10-Hz Butterworth low-pass filter to the raw signal and using signal derivatives, as previously performed in other studies [40, 70]. The processing steps involving the location of fiducial points are detailed in subsection ECG processing: location of ECG fiducial points. Three features based on the temporal distance between these fiducial points were considered in this pattern recognition problem: the ST, RT, and QT distances that characterize each ECG heartbeat, which represents each sample of the dataset considered. After being calculated, the features were processed by way of normalization according to the average distance between each R consecutive points of the training set across all subjects. Heartbeats of which the distance measures provide noisy information (i.e., when the distance measures are not according to previously established physiological limits [68, 101]) were removed, also at the stage at which the features were processed. The most suitable classification model based on the Support Vector Machine (SVM) classifier for this specific problem was found at the training stage. In addition, the average RR distance across subjects was used to map future input test vectors into the training features space. The performance of the proposed method was evaluated during the test phase, by considering the information stored during the training phase (best classification model and the training average value of RR across subjects). Additional details about the classification procedure are provided in subsection Classification Procedure. Fig 3 presents a scheme summarizing the steps of the algorithm.

Graphical representations of the training results can be found in Supporting Information, S3 Fig. Figs 7, 8 and 9 show the test performance results that were obtained. These results reveal that accuracy values higher than 0.960 were obtained by considering different durations for training. The minimal performance value that was achieved was observed for the training set with the shortest duration (the 10-second training set), which ensured an average test performance of 0.966±0.041. It was already expected that the algorithm performance would be less optimal for shorter training sets, since a low number of heartbeats was not considered to be sufficiently discriminative. The average accuracy was observed to improve along with an increase in the duration of the training set. Thus, improved results were obtained by increasing the training time until a plateau was reached, i.e., until the performance values stabilized, and an optimal performance value was reached (a maximal averaged accuracy value of 0.975±0.036), for both of the tested conditions, as depicted in Fig 7. This shows that the optimal testing performance value of 0.975 was achieved for a training duration of at least 30 seconds. Subsequently, this performance value becomes near constant until 100 seconds—the maximal duration of the training evaluation -, suggesting that to train the algorithm for long durations is not worthwhile.

A novel and promising method for automatically recognizing a subject using only three characteristics extracted from their ECG waveform that allows fast recognition with high performance rates (around 97.5% of accuracy) and low FRR (of about 3.440±1.980%) was proposed. Owing to its computational simplicity, the proposed method can be embedded in a small device (e.g., a low-cost hardware module), with simple architecture, because it is capable of recognizing a subject by an average of 1.02 heartbeats (requiring only 1-2 heartbeats, approximately 2 seconds maximum), therefore achieving near beat-to-beat performance. The method is characterized by two important attributes. The first is the normalization involved in the classification scheme and based on the physiological parameter population-specific RR cardiac length, and the second is the three features based on the ECG morphology that are selected for characterizing each individual.




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