There’s more to ears than meets the eye, at least according to recently released report by UK researchers, which finds that ear shape may be a more reliable measure of individuality than the widely-used fingerprint.

Ear shape is gaining new ground to become a credible biometric, according to the small study conducted by the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. Researchers there studied 63 subjects and 252 sample images of ears. They found that ear shape proved 99.6% accurate across the study population. Similar ear studies have been conducted in the past, but this one was the first to take account of the position, scale and rotation of the ear.

Since ears rarely change through our lifespan, outer ear scanning could catch on. Once adapted, the study could lead to new development in airport and cell phone security.

The report, by Alastair Cummings, Mark Nixon and John Carter of the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science can be viewed here. (.PDF)

Digit and iris scans as well as facial recognition technology have long been tried, with varying success, to uniquely identify individuals. With identity theft rampant, recent years have also seen other attempts to use physical traits as an immutable form of identity. Earlier this year it was reported that scanning noses could even be the future of biometrics, according to a study from the University of Bath. 

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