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Publication numberUS20020162031 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/851,147
Publication dateOct 31, 2002
Filing dateMay 9, 2001
Priority dateMar 8, 2001
Also published asEP1366418A2, EP1366418A4, US7370208, US8267866, US20040088553, US20080214935, WO2002071765A2, WO2002071765A3, WO2002071765A8
Publication number09851147, 851147, US 2002/0162031 A1, US 2002/162031 A1, US 20020162031 A1, US 20020162031A1, US 2002162031 A1, US 2002162031A1, US-A1-20020162031, US-A1-2002162031, US2002/0162031A1, US2002/162031A1, US20020162031 A1, US20020162031A1, US2002162031 A1, US2002162031A1
InventorsShmuel Levin, Shai Ashkenazi
Original AssigneeShmuel Levin
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for automatic control of access
US 20020162031 A1
Abstract
A method and apparatus for controlling access of individuals to a service, device or location in order to restrict access to members of a particular age and/or gender category, by machine-sensing a predetermined biometric characteristic of the individual indicative of the particular age and/or gender category and utilizing the machine-sensed characteristic for automatically controlling access of the individual. The method and apparatus are particularly suited to controlling access of children to age-inappropriate Internet sites.
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Claims(32)
What is claimed is:
1. A method of controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access to members of a particular category, comprising:
machine-sensing at least one predetermined biometric characteristic of the individual indicative of said particular category; and
utilizing said machine-sensed characteristic for automatically controlling access of the individual to said particular service, device or location.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein said particular category is an age category.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein said particular category is a gender category.
4. The method of claim 2, wherein said machine-sensed biometric characteristic is the degree of ossification of an examined bone of the individual.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein said degree of ossification of the bone of the individual is determined by sensing the presence or absence of a bone growth-plate in the examined bone.
6. The method of claim 5, wherein said examined bone is a phalanx of a finger or toe in the hand or foot of the individual.
7. The method of claim 5, wherein said examined bone is a wrist bone in the wrist of the individual.
8. The method of claim 5, wherein the gender of the individual is also utilized, in addition to said degree of ossification of said examined bone, for automatically controlling the access of the individual to said particular service, device or location.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein facial characteristics of the individual are machined-sensed by a camera to determine the individual's gender.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein said machine-sensed biometric characteristic of the individual is a facial characteristic sensed by a camera.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein said machine-sensed biometric characteristic of the individual is a voice characteristic sensed by a microphone.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein the access controlled is access to an electronic medium.
13. An apparatus for controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access to members of a particular category, comprising:
at least one sensor for sensing at least one predetermined biometric characteristic of said individual indicative of said particular category; and
a data processor for receiving the sensed biometric characteristic, comparing the biometric characteristic to reference data that correlates the biometric characteristic to the particular category, and outputting a signal indicating whether or not access to said particular service, device or location is permitted.
14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said reference data correlates the sensed biometric characteristic to an age category.
15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said reference data correlates the sensed biometric characteristic to a gender category.
16. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein said predetermined biometric characteristic sensed by said sensor is the degree of ossification of an examined bone of the individual.
17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein said sensor senses the degree of ossification of an examined bone of the individual by sensing for the presence or absence of a bone growth-plate.
18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein said sensor is an ultrasonic sensor constructed for examining a phalanx of a finger or toe in the hand or foot of said individual.
19. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein said sensor is an ultrasonic sensor constructed for examining a wrist bone in the wrist of the individual.
20. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein said reference data also correlates the gender of the individual together with the degree of ossification of the examined bone to said particular age category for automatically controlling the access of the individual to said particular service, device or location.
21. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein said sensor is a camera for sensing the face of the individual.
22. The apparatus of claim 18, wherein said sensor is a microphone for sensing the voice of the individual.
23. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said sensor is housed in a manual control member of an electronic medium.
24. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein said sensor is housed in an electronic medium.
25. A memory device storing in an installable format a software application for analyzing at least one biometric characteristic of an individual to determine if said individual belongs to a particular category; and for automatically controlling access of the individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access according to said particular category.
26. The memory device of claim 25, wherein said particular category is an age and/or gender category.
27. The memory device of claim 25, wherein said biometric characteristic is the presence or absence of a bone growth-plate.
28. A hardware storing in an executable format an application for analyzing at least one biometric characteristic of an individual to determine if said individual belongs to a particular category; and for automatically controlling access of the individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access according to said particular category.
29. The hardware of claim 28, wherein said particular category is an age and/or gender category.
30. The hardware of claim 28, wherein said biometric characteristic is the presence or absence of a bone growth-plate.
31. An apparatus for to restricting access or use to individuals being members of a particular category, comprising, housed therein, a sensor for sensing a predetermined biometric characteristic of said individuals indicative of said particular category.
32. A method of conducting business comprising:
upgrading a user client to perform a biometric age and/or gender classification; and
selling or licensing to a service provider and/or content provider an access control package operably communicating with said user client.
Description

[0001] This application claims the benefit of priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/273,900, filed Mar. 8, 2001.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to a method, apparatus and commercial service for automatically controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location. The method and apparatus are particularly suitable for controlling access by children to age inappropriate Internet sites or TV programs, and is therefore described below primarily with respect to these applications.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] With the rise of the Internet the question as to what extent access to information can and should be controlled has become more complicated than ever before. On the one hand, the freedom of expression is a pinnacle of any liberal, democratic society. On the other hand, cyberspace has made it possible for various undesirable groups to project their messages and target victims without the fear of consequence. While critics of Internet regulation often fear unwanted government intrusion into the lives of civilians, few groups dispute that material like pornography or depictions of dehumanizing violence warrant some safeguards.

[0004] No group is more at risk from exposure to harmful material via the Internet than children. The combination of the natural curiosity of children with the almost endless quantity of information in cyberspace, guarantees that some children will, either intentionally or unintentionally, encounter materials that they should not be seeing at a young age.

[0005] While children under the age of sixteen currently account for almost 50 percent of the on-line population in the United States, the vast majority of their activities on-line are unsupervised. The nature of the Internet allows a child a fully interactive experience from the “privacy” of home. In addition, at present, many children are more knowledgeable about the Internet than their parents.

[0006] Obviously, parental preferences regarding the control of their children's Internet activity varies among parents. Most people agree that regulation of child Internet activity is a right and responsibility of parents in the same way that parents are charged with raising their children in line with their own personal moral and ethical values, as well as those of the society at large.

[0007] Children differ from adults in that they are more vulnerable and less able to apply critical judgment. Therefore parental supervision of some sort has become paramount, but, at the same time, the advent of the Internet poses a great difficulty to such supervision.

[0008] Currently there are several methods of parental control for the Internet. The most well-known and widely used is a blocking system that relies on a Rating or Labeling systems wherein Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer an option to prevent underage users from accessing sites of a certain rating. In addition, filtering software systems that are used for this purpose have also been developed.

[0009] However, such blocking and filtering systems are not user-friendly, and they are far from being fool-proof. In order to employ blocking, parents must set up separate accounts through the ISP with separate passwords. This creates the difficulties of remembering passwords while hiding them from children. In addition, net-savvy children can figure out ways to gain access to the passwords or bypass them altogether. Additionally, password systems also suffer from problems such as being stolen, forgotten, shared, or intercepted by hackers.

[0010] There are many instances where control of access according to classification to a group of individuals is desired, carefully balancing between the freedom to be engaged in various activities and other values beneficial to the individual and/or society, such as safety, privacy, negative influence, education and the freedom to congregate. For example, it is well accepted that children dedicated Internet sites should be protected from being accessed by pedophiles, adult Internet sites that display pornography, for example, should be forbidden for children to access, some homosexuals related Internet sites, especially those sites serving the lesbian community may wish to be gender restricted, so as to allow only female access, access to public rest-rooms should be gender restricted, the access of children to alcoholic beverage selling businesses, restricted cinema movies, restricted shows, etc., should be denied, the access of children to vending machines offering cigarettes and/or liqueur should be forbidden, similarly, the access of children to various danger imposing household electronic or electrical devices, such as a stove, should be restricted.

[0011] There is thus a widely recognized need for, and it would be highly advantageous to have, a method and apparatus for automatically controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location, based on the classification of the individual to a classification of individuals, such as age and/or gender classification.

[0012] Biometric systems are known, which identify users using fingerprints, palm prints, retinal identification, face recognition, voice recognition and the like. Since in prior art biometric systems access is based on whether the user is a particular individual, rather than a member of a classification of individuals, each user must be previously measured. In addition the individual may over the time change classification (e.g., grow older so as to be in a different age category) and would therefore need to have his or her status changed.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0013] According to one aspect of the invention there is provided a method of controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access to members of a particular category, such as age category and/or gender category, the method comprising machine-sensing a predetermined biometric characteristic of the individual indicative of the particular category and utilizing the machine-sensed characteristic for automatically controlling access to the service, device or location.

[0014] According to further features in the preferred embodiment of the invention described below, access is controlled to a service, device or location, based on whether the individual is a child or adult or in the alternative, a male or female. In a preferred embodiment of the invention, the child or adult status is determined by the degree of bone ossification of the individual by sensing the presence, absence and/or thickness of a growth-plate in an examined bone. Suitable software or hardware based logic compares the sensed presence, absence or thickness of a bone growth-plate to a database correlating the presence, absence or thickness of the bone growth-plate to whether the individual is a child or an adult. The individual is determined to be a child or an adult and a signal is sent, indicating permission or denial of access. Using the appropriate sensors, such as ultrasonic sensors, microphones, cameras, respirators, skin attached sensors and the like, other biometric parameters, such as voice, facial patterns, respiration volume, skin thickness, biochemistry (e.g., blood biochemistry) and the like can be sensed and used to classify an individual into an age and/or gender classification group.

[0015] According to still further features in the described preferred embodiment, access is automatically controlled to an electronic medium such as specific Internet servers. Access, based on whether the individual is a child or adult, is preferably determined by sensing the presence, absence or thickness of a growth-plate in an examined bone of the individual. Preferably, the examined bone is a finger phalange or wrist of the individual and it is preferably sensed using ultrasound technology. The ultrasound device or other sensor is preferably housed in a manual control member such as a computer input device such as a computer mouse or keyboard, TV or Web TV remote control and the like, or in an electronic or electrical device such as, but not limited to, a computer, a telephone, a cellular telephone or a personal digital assistant, especially of the type having Internet browsing capabilities, a food processor and the like.

[0016] In another aspect of the invention, there is provided an apparatus for controlling access to a service, device or location in order to restrict access to members of a particular category, such as age and/or gender category. The apparatus comprises a sensor to sense a predetermined biometric characteristic of the individual indicative of the particular age and/or gender category; and a data processor. The data processor receives the sensed biometric characteristic, compares the biometric characteristic to a reference data that correlates the biometric characteristic to the particular age and/or gender category, and outputs a signal indicating whether or not access to the particular service, device or location is permitted.

[0017] In another aspect of the invention, there is provided a memory device storing in an installable format a software application for analyzing at least one biometric characteristic of an individual to determine if the individual belongs to a particular category, such as an age or gender category and automatically controlling access of the individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access according to the particular category.

[0018] In yet another aspect of the invention, there is provided a hardware, such as a computer or server (e.g., Internet server, ISP server, for example), storing in an executable format an application for analyzing at least one biometric characteristic of an individual to determine if the individual belongs to a particular category; and for automatically controlling access of the individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access according to the particular category.

[0019] In another aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of conducting business comprising upgrading a user client to perform a biometric age and/or gender classification and selling or licensing to the service provider and/or content provider an access control package being operable with the user client.

[0020] It will be seen that the present invention as briefly summarized above, enables access control to be effected in a manner which is easy enough to be understood by parents, who may have little or no experience with the Internet and which does not allow bypass by children who are often far more experienced in using the Internet than their parents. It can be implemented in an automatic system not requiring special accounts with an Internet Service Provider. Therefore, parents need not remember nor hide passwords, and, children can not hack into the system.

[0021] The invention also does not require passwords, passcards, or the like, so there is nothing to lose, misplace, have stolen, or share. The invention uses a reference database and so does not need to pre-measure individuals nor does it involve identifying a particular individual. Also, the biometric characteristic, or characteristics, used are those that are characteristic of a broad category of individuals and therefore is not dependent on possible changes in the individuals.

[0022] Furthermore, the use of a biometric characteristic that can differentiate between children and adult and between genders, as in the preferred embodiment of the invention, is particularly suited to automatic control of children's access to certain Internet sites or TV programs while retaining access for adults.

[0023] Further features, advantages and uses of the present invention will be described and become apparent in the description below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0024] The invention is herein described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings. With specific reference now to the drawings in detail, it is stressed that the particulars shown are by way of example and for purposes of illustrative discussion of the preferred embodiments of the present invention only, and are presented in the cause of providing what is believed to be the most useful and readily understood description of the principles and conceptual aspects of the invention. In this regard, no attempt is made to show structural details of the invention in more detail than is necessary for a fundamental understanding of the invention, the description taken with the drawings making apparent to those skilled in the art how the several forms of the invention may be embodied in practice.

[0025] In the drawings:

[0026]FIG. 1 is a flowchart of the method in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

[0027]FIGS. 2a-e illustrate several forms of apparatuses for automatically controlling access in accordance with the present invention;

[0028]FIG. 3 is a schematic presentation of a hardware such as a server (e.g., Internet server, ISP server, for example) according to the present invention;

[0029]FIG. 4 is a schematic presentation of a memory device according to the present invention;

[0030]FIG. 5 is a flowchart of one form of a method in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

[0031]FIG. 6 is a schematic presentation of a bone in the growth stage;

[0032]FIG. 7 is an x-ray image of finger phalanges with a schematic showing two possible measurement directions for sound waves used in the ultrasound through-transmission technique of the present invention;

[0033]FIG. 8 is a schematic presentation of a simulation of a bone without a joint.

[0034]FIG. 9 is a schematic presentation of a simulation of a bone with a joint at the end.

[0035]FIG. 10 is a schematic presentation of a simulation of a bone with a growth-plate and a joint at the end.

[0036]FIG. 11 is a graph of the output using an alternate embodiment (Pulse-Echo technique) of the present invention;

[0037]FIG. 12 is schematically shows the dependence of the speed of sound in a bone at different ages throughout childhood and maturity terms;

[0038]FIG. 13 illustrates a system for sensing both the gender and bone growth plate of an individual for indicating an age category; and

[0039]FIG. 14 is a flowchart of the method for automatically controlling access using the individual's gender and bone growth-plate status according to preferred embodiments of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0040] The present invention is of a method and apparatus which can be used for instating a service for automatically controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location. Specifically, the present invention can be used to restrict access of an individual to an age and/or gender inappropriate Internet sites, TV programs, devices and/or locations, so as to carefully balance between the freedom to be engaged in various activities and other values beneficial to society such as safety, undesired influence, privacy, freedom of expression, education and the freedom to congregate.

[0041] The present invention can thus be used, for example, for protecting children dedicated Internet sites from being accessed by adults, restricting the access of children to adult Internet sites that display pornography, violence and the like, restricting the access of males to Internet sites serving the lesbian community, restricting the access of children to alcoholic beverage selling businesses, restricted cinema movies, restricted shows, etc., restricting the access to rest-rooms according to gender and restricting the access of children to various danger imposing household electronic or electric devices.

[0042] The principles and operation of the present invention may be better understood with reference to the drawings and accompanying descriptions.

[0043] Before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments or of being practiced or carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

[0044] With reference now to the drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates a flowchart demonstrating the basic concept of the method of the present invention.

[0045] Thus, in one aspect thereof, the present invention provides a method of controlling access of an individual to a service, device or location, in order to restrict access to members of a particular category, such as age and/or gender category. As indicated by block 10, machine-sensing is used to sense or measure a predetermined biometric characteristic of the individual, indicative of a particular category to which the individual is classified.

[0046] As is further detailed hereinafter, the machine-sensed characteristic is then used for automatically controlling access of the individual to a particular service, device or location.

[0047] To this end, as indicated by block 12, a sensor output and, as indicated by block 14, reference data, are fed, as indicated by block 16, into an access control logic (either access control logic software, access control logic hardware/firmware or a combination of both), which, as indicated by block 18, issues an access control logic output, e.g., permission or denial of access.

[0048] The presently preferred embodiment of the invention, described below in further detail, relates to a method and apparatus for automatically controlling access to the Internet, or particular Internet sites, based on whether the individual (user) is a child or an adult and/or based on the gender of the individual.

[0049]FIGS. 2a-e show several apparatuses which either inherently include or are made to include in accordance with the teachings of the present invention a sensor which can be used to sense a biometric characteristic of an individual, being indicative of a particular category such as age or gender.

[0050] Shown in FIGS. 2a and 2 b are electronic media peripheral devices 20, a computer input device 22 (a mouse in this case) in FIG. 2a and a TV or Web TV remote control 26 in FIG. 2b. As would become apparent to the skilled artisan, other peripheral devices, such as the computer's keyboard are also envisaged useful for practicing the invention.

[0051] Computer input device 22 has an appendage 22 for receiving a user's finger or thumb. Computer input device 22 and appendage 24 house an ultrasound bone growth-plate measurement sensor, which comprises an ultrasound transmitter 26 and receiver 28 for sensing a bone of the user, including a finger or thumb placed between appendage 24 and computer input device 22.

[0052]FIG. 2a shows transmitter 26 housed in appendage 24 and receiver 28 housed in input device 22, however the locations can be reversed. A cable 30 energizes ultrasound transmitter 26 and outputs the data from receiver 28 to a sensor output unit.

[0053] Remote control 26 has an ultrasound transceiver 32 which serves for transmitting ultrasound signals and receiving back reflected ultrasound signals, so as to function similar to computer input device 26, obviating the need for appendage 24.

[0054]FIGS. 2c-2 e show various electronic/electrical devices 34 having one or more biometric sensors which are either inherent or added thereto.

[0055] Thus, FIG. 2c shows a cellular telephone 36 having a microphone 38 which is an inherent sensor to cellular telephones and an ultrasound transceiver 32 which is not an inherent sensor to a cellular telephone.

[0056]FIG. 2d shows a telephone or personal digital assistant 40 having Internet/TV access having a microphone 38 and a camera 42 which are inherent sensors to such devices and an ultrasound transceiver 32 which is added thereto.

[0057]FIG. 2e shows a computer system 44 allowing Internet/TV access having microphone 38 and camera 42 which are inherent sensors to computer systems and ultrasound transceiver 32 which is added thereto, through a computer input device 22 as is further illustrated in FIG. 2a.

[0058] As shown in FIG. 1, access control logic receives the sensor output, compares it to reference data, determines from this comparison the age and/or gender category of the user, and sends an access signal, which can be access permission or denial. It will be appreciated that the access control logic can be housed (e.g., stored in an executable format) and/or executed from either the devices shown, for example, in FIGS. 2a-e and/or similar devices, or from a device with which these devices communicate, such as various computers and/or servers, including, but not limited to, Internet servers, including ISP servers, content provider servers and filtering servers, servers of TV/Cable/Satellite broadcasters, telephony servers, cellular provider servers, etc.

[0059] Thus, further in accordance with the teachings of the present invention there is provided, as shown in FIG. 3, a hardware 46, which can be, for example, a server, a computer (e.g., a user client) or a logic chip (firmware), storing in an executable format an application for analyzing at least one biometric characteristic of an individual to determine if the individual belongs to a particular category; and for automatically controlling access of the individual to a service, device or location in order to restrict access according to the particular category.

[0060] The terms “user client” and/or “server”, also referred to herein invariably as “computational devices”, include, but are not limited to, personal computers (PC) having an operating system such as DOS, Windows™, OS/2™ or Linux; Macintosh™ computers; computers having JAVA™-OS as the operating system; graphical workstations such as the computers of Sun Microsystems™ and Silicon Graphics™, and other computers having some version of the UNIX operating system such as AIX™ or SOLARIS™ of Sun Microsystems™; or any other known and available operating system, or any device, including but not limited to: laptops, hand-held computers, PDA (personal data assistant) devices, cellular telephones, any type of WAP (wireless application protocol) enabled devices, wearable computers of any sort, which can be connected to a network and which has an operating system. Hereinafter, the term “Windows™” includes but is not limited to Windows95™, Windows 3.x™ in which “x” is an integer such as “1”, Windows NT™, Windows98™, Windows CE™, Windows2000™, and any upgraded versions of these operating systems by Microsoft Corp. (USA).

[0061] For the present invention, a software application could be written in substantially any suitable programming language, which could easily be selected by one of ordinary skill in the art. Evidently, the programming language chosen should be compatible with the computational device with which the software application is executed. Examples of suitable programming languages include, but are not limited to, C, C++, Perl, VisualBasic and Java.

[0062] In addition, the present invention could be implemented as software, firmware or hardware, or as a combination thereof. For any of these implementations, the functional steps performed by the method could be described as a plurality of instructions performed by a data processor.

[0063] As shown in FIG. 4, in its software form, the application is installed into hardware 46 from a memory device 48 which stores in an installable format a software application for analyzing at least one biometric characteristic of an individual to determine if said individual belongs to a particular category; and for automatically controlling access of the individual to a service, device or location, in order to restrict access according to the particular category.

[0064] Memory device 48 can be, for example, a RAM, a ROM, a CD, a DVD or a hard drive of any type of a nearby or remote computational device, from which application data can be installed or alternatively downloaded and thereafter installed.

[0065]FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating the method of the present invention when using an ultrasonic device as a biometric sensor.

[0066] First, as indicated by block 50, the presence, absence or thickness of a bone growth-plate in a finger phalanx of the user is sensed and/or measured. The, measurement output, as indicated by block 52 is then compared to a reference data correlating the presence, absence or measure of a bone growth-plate to child or adult status, and, as indicated by block 54, the individual is determined to be a child or adult. Based on this determination, a signal is sent, indicating permission or denial of access to, for example, a particular Internet site, a particular telephone number, a particular TV/Cable show, a particular electronic or electrical device or a particular location.

[0067] Further explanation of the preferred embodiment of the present invention requires background on bone growth, cartilage, and puberty.

[0068]FIG. 6 is a schematic presentation of one end of a bone 60 in its growth stage. Elongation of the bone shaft (also known as the diaphysis) 62 is what makes an individual or part thereof grow. After birth, a thin plate of cartilage (known as Epiphyseal Cartilage, Epiphyseal Plate or bone growth-plate) which is referred to herein as growth-plate 64, remains at the ends of growing bones. This growth-plate only becomes bone (ossifies) when the bone associated with it has completed its growth. The growth-plate connects a head (epiphysis) 66 of bone 60 to bone shaft (diaphysis) 62.

[0069] As the cartilage of the growth-plate grows (always in the direction toward the epiphysis), it is replaced continuously by newly formed bone (always on the side toward the diaphysis). No further longitudinal growth of the bone takes place after the growth of the growth plate ceases.

[0070] Bone formation, also called ossification, is the process by which new bone material is produced. Ossification begins about the third month of fetal life in humans and is completed by late adolescence. Bone growth occurs when a gelatinous substance is secreted in the cartilage. Soon after, inorganic salts are deposited in the gelatin to form the hardened material known as bone. While the bone is growing, the growth-plate is continually growing and being replaced by bone. When the bone is in the growth period, the growth-plate grows at about the same rate as it is turned into bone. Thus the growth-plate remains at a relatively constant thickness until bone growth is completed, at which time the growth-plate disappears, as it ossifies.

[0071] Not all bones stop growing at the same age. Bone growth ends and the growth-plate disappears following a chronological order according to the skelatal maturation and growth process. The last bone growth, and so ultimate disappearance of growth-plates, occurs at around age 20. While growing, the growth plate is said to be “open.” When the growth-plate has disappeared (having been replaced by bone at the end of the growth period), it is said to be “closed.”

[0072] Bone growth from ages 11 to 18 years has a strong relationship to puberty status, and thus gender, since girls generally experience puberty about one years prior to boys. In the United States, puberty starts at the mean age of 11 years for boys and 10 years for girls. International studies in Western countries report similar ages. The end of puberty occurs about 2.5 to 3 years after the first sex characteristics appear. Therefore the end of puberty typically occurs at age 13.5-14 years in boys and 12.5-13 in girls.

[0073] Bone age has been used as a clinical tool to assess the point at which a child arrives in his or her skeletal development. Towards the end of puberty, the bone growth-plate is ossified into bone and is no longer recognizable using, for example, x-ray imaging. FIG. 7 shows an x-ray image of finger phalanges of a child.

[0074] There are different methods for determining bone by taking x-rays of the wrist and hand and comparing them with pictures and drawings in Atlases and tables. The methods of Gruelich & Pyle (GP) and Tanner & Whitehouse, (TW2) are the most utilized. These methods, as well as other relevant data, are described in, for example, the following publications, the contents of which are incorporated by reference:

[0075] Pediatric endocrinology; ed. J. Bertrand et al. Williams & Wilkins (Baltimore) 1993;

[0076] Radiographic Atlas of Skeletal Development for the hand and wrist. W. W. Gruelich & S. I. Pyle;

[0077] Assessment of skeletal maturity and prediction of adult height. J. U. Tanner & R. H. Whitehouse;

[0078] Mechanism of the stimulatory effect of GH on longitude bone growth. O. Isaksson et al. Endocrine reviews. 8(4);426:1987;

[0079] Williams Textbook of endocrinology. 9th ed. W. B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia;

[0080] Best and Taylor's physiological basis of medical practice. 11th ed. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore/London;

[0081] M. E. Herman-Giddens et al. Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls. Pediatrics 89;505-512,1997;

[0082] F. M. Biro, A. W. Lucky, G. A. Hoster. Pubertal staging in boys. J. Pediatrics 127;40-46,1995;

[0083] S. J. Ulijszek, E. Evnas, D. S. Miller. Age of menarche of European, afro-Caribbean and Ino-Pakistani schoolgirls living in London. Ann Human Biology 18;167-75:1991;

[0084] M. A. Sperling ed. Pediatric endocrinology, W. B. Saunders Company. Ovary and female sexual maturation disorders of sexual differentiation and puberty;

[0085] P. C. Sizonenco. Pediatrics 14;191-120:1987;

[0086] A. F. Roche, R. Wellens et al. Timing of sexual maturation in a group of US white youths. J. Pediatric endocrinology and Metabolism 8;11-18:1995;

[0087] Elliot, Glenn R. and Feldman, Shirley S. (1995). At the Threshold, The Developing Adolescent. Cambridge, Mass. and London, England. Harvard University Press;

[0088] Tanner J M: Growth at Adolescence, 2nd ed. (1962) Blackwell scientific publications, Oxford;

[0089] Greulich W .W. & Pyle S. I. (1959) Radiographic Atlas of Skeletal Development of Hand and Wrist. Stanford University Press, California;

[0090] Elgenmark O: The normal development of the ossific centers during infancy and childhood. Acta Pediatr Scand 1946; 33 (suppl. 1);

[0091] De Roo T et al. (1976) Pocket atlas for skeletal age. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands;

[0092] Annemieke M et al: Bone mineral density in children and adolescents: relation to puberty, calcium intake and physical activity. J Clin Endocrinol Metabl997; 82:57-62;

[0093] Kendig's Disorders of the respiratory tract in children. Ed. Chemick. 5th edition, 1990, Saunders;

[0094] Lucas W P) et al J Pediatr 6:533-545, 1935;

[0095] Adolescene (5th edition) Laurence Steinberg 1996.

[0096] The CIBA collection of Medical Illustrations, volume 4, Endocrine systems and selected metabolic diseases, Frank. H. Netter, M. D. 1970.

[0097] From these publications and irrespective of gender and ethnicity, one can conclude the following:

[0098] Almost all children have an “open” epiphyseal plate, as follows:

[0099] In the phalanges—an “open” epiphyseal plate is detectable up to the age of 12.5 years for girls; and 14 years for boys. At the age of 14.5 years for girls and 16.5 years for boys, only in about 2.5% of the population an “open” epiphyseal plate is detectable in the phalanges.

[0100] In the wrist (ulna)—an “open” epiphyseal plate is detectable up to up to the age of 13 years in girls; and 14.5 years in boys. At the age of 17 years for girls and 18 years for boys, only in about 2.5% of the population an “open” epiphyseal plate is detectable in the phalanges.

[0101] In the wrist (radius)—an “open” epiphyseal plate is detectable up to up to the age of 15 years for both girls and boys. At the age of 17 years for both girls and boys, only in about 2.5% of population an “open” epiphyseal plate is detectable in the phalanges.

[0102] Thus, one can assume that in 97.5% of all children, the lowest threshold for the “open” plates is at age 12.5, and the highest threshold for “closed” plates is at age 18. However, in some other existing long bones of the body (like the leg tibia) the epiphyseal plate may still remain “open” (not ossified) until the age of 20 years.

[0103] Having such a correlation between the presence of a growth-plate to puberty stage and chronological age known, growth-plate sensing/measurement may be used to provide an indication of chronological age.

[0104] The presently preferred embodiment of the invention uses Ultrasound Through-Transmission technology to determine growth-plate status.

[0105] A pulse of ultrasound energy is transmitted from one side to the other side of the location where the development of the growth-plates occurs. The ultrasound propagation velocity can be measured by measuring the pulse flight time and the distance between the transmitter and the receiver (see FIG. 2a). The ratio of the distance to the time of flight is the effective sound velocity in the tissue. It is an “effective” sound velocity in the sense that it is an average sound velocity through the different types of tissue along the ultrasound trajectory.

[0106] The sound velocity in tissues of different types is listed below:

[0107] Fat: 1460-1480 m/s

[0108] Blood: 1560-1590 m/s

[0109] Muscle: 1500-1600 m/s

[0110] Cartilage: 1750 m/s

[0111] Trabecular bone: 1700-2000 m/s

[0112] Cortical bone: 3000-4200 m/s (age dependent)

[0113] Sound velocity measurements can be clearly distinguished between cortical bone and cartilage because of the large difference in the sound velocity in these two types of tissue. Thus the measurement location should be designed such that the sound waves are passing across an area where bone and growth-plate are interfacing.

[0114] The through-transmission method can be applied in two configurations: transverse transmission, and axial transmission. In the transverse transmission mode, the ultrasonic pulse propagates in a perpendicular direction to the long bone axis. The transmission line in this mode should cross the growth-plate region. This method is used in most of the ultrasonic bone strength assessment instruments (osteoporosis diagnostics). These instruments typically measure either calcaneus (heel) bones or the phalanx (finger or toe) bones.

[0115] Two Ultrasonic Pulse-Echo techniques, referred to hereinbelow as “Technique A” and “Technique B”, may be used to measure the growth-plate thickness.

[0116] Technique A: The pulse-echo technique is the underlying technology of medical ultrasonic imaging. An ultrasonic transducer transmits a pulse of ultrasound, and the same transducer (which hence serves as a transceiver, see FIGS. 2b-2 d) collects the echoes that are scattered backwards from different types of tissues along the transmission line. By scanning the transmission line and mapping the intensity of the back-scattering signal, an image of internal organs can be produced. Cartilage tissue (e.g., growth-plate) is characterized by very weak scattering and therefore shows as dark areas in ultrasound imaging. The interface between the cartilage and the soft tissues and the interface between the cartilage and bone reflect ultrasound much better and thus appears as bright lines in ultrasound imaging.

[0117] With software to quantify the thickness of the dark area (growth-plate) this technique can be used to determine the thickness of bone growth-plate and to correlate it to age according to a predetermined reference data.

[0118]FIG. 7 shows an x-ray image of finger phalanges of a child with a schematic showing two possible measurement directions for sound waves used in the ultrasound through-transmission technique of the present invention.

[0119] Technique B: A special type of pulse-echo technique, which utilizes the higher speed of sound in the bones, can be alternatively used.

[0120] In this technique the ultrasound is propagated along the bone axis and echoes from different structures in the bone, such as the growth-plate, are collected. A typical suitable frequency range for this technique is 0.5 MHz to 2 MHz. The first part of the received signal contains high amplitude reverberations caused by multiple reflections from objects and interfaces in the vicinity of the transducer. The temporal extension of these echoes is designated as “dead zone” since no other reflections can be identified during this initial period. The problem of dead zone is usually overcome by designing delay lines on the transducer face. Any reflection that arrives after the dead zone can be identified in the echo signal if the reflection amplitude is higher than the noise level. The signal-to-noise ratio levels is usually optimized by a proper selection of the bandwidth of the receiving electronic circuits and careful shielding techniques. When applying the technique to a long bone that has a distal (or proximal) part, the echo pattern will have a double (long) reflection when there is still cartilage in the growth-plate, and a single (short) reflection when there is no cartilage.

[0121] This technique will now be further illustrated by reference to FIGS. 8-11.

[0122]FIG. 8 is a schematic presentation of a long bone in an area away from a joint and growth plate, illustrating the bone at 70 and surrounding soft tissue (muscle, skin, fat, blood, etc.) at 72 (hereinafter, configuration A).

[0123]FIG. 9 is a schematic presentation of a long bone 70 in an area that includes a joint, but has no growth-plate (i.e., an adult bone), the joint being simulated by a 1 mm thick cartilage 74 and 1 mm soft tissue 76 (hereinafter, configuration B).

[0124]FIG. 10 is a schematic presentation of a long bone in an area away that includes a joint, having a growth-plate (i.e., a child's bone), the joint being simulated by 1 mm thick cartilage 74 and the growth-plate being simulated by a 2 mm thick cartilage 78 (hereinafter, configuration C).

[0125]FIG. 11 shows the outputs of the Ultrasonic Pulse-Echo system using technique B.

[0126] Echoes are seen as “blips” in the output curves. A long bone without a joint or growth-plate (configuration A, FIG. 8) has no echoes after the initial “dampening” period.

[0127] A long bone with a joint but no growth-plate (adult bone, configuration B, FIG. 9) has only one significant echo after the initial “dampening” period, at around 32 microseconds after the pulse transmission.

[0128] A long bone with a joint and a growth-plate (child's bone, configuration C, FIG. 10) has several significant echoes after the initial “dampening” period, at around 26 microseconds.

[0129] The parameters used in the simulation were:

Longitude velocity Attenuation at Attenuation Slope
(m/s) 1 MHz (dB/cm) (dB/cm/MHz)
Soft tissue 1580 0.05 0.1
Bone 2900 2 4
Cartilage 1800 0.03 0.07

[0130] In another embodiment of the present invention, bone mineral density is used as a biometric feature to determine the age of a user.

[0131] In both of the ultrasonic through transmission methods described herein, a significant part of the pulse trajectory passes in bone tissue. The measured effective velocity is thus influenced by the mechanical properties of the bone.

[0132] The variation in the properties of bones during the growth period of children have been studied by Dual Energy X-Ray Absorption (DEXA) techniques and Quantitative Ultrasound (QUS) techniques. To this end, see:

[0133] J. M. Lappe, M. Stegman, K. M. Davies, S. Barber and R. R. Recker; “A prospective study of quantitative ultrasound in children and adolescents”; J. Clin. Densitometry 3(2), 167-175 (2000).

[0134] M. H. Lequin, R. R. van Rijn, S. G. F. Robben, W. C. J. Hop and C. van Kuijk; “Normal values for tibial quantitative ultrasonometry in Caucasian children and adolescents (aged 6 to 19 years)”; Calcified Tissue Int. 67, 101-105 (2000).

[0135] A. Eliakim, D. Nemet and B. Wolach; “Quantitative ultrasound measurements of bone strength in obese children and adolescents”; J. Pediatr. Endocrinol. Metab. 14(2), 159-164 (Feb. 2001).

[0136] Z. Halaba and W. Pluskiewicz; “The assessment of development of bone mass in children by quantitative ultrasound through the proximal phalanxes of the hand”; Ultrasound Med. Biol. 23(9), 1331-1335 (1997).

[0137] These studies demonstrate that both the mineral density of bones measured using DEXA, and the mechanical strength, as probed by the QUS techniques, increase during the childhood growth period.

[0138] These finding imply that any bone properties assessment technique (such as DEXA, QUS) can be used independently to establish age group classification.

[0139]FIG. 12 schematically shows the dependence of the speed of sound in a bone at different ages throughout the childhood and maturity terms.

[0140] The proposed through transmission techniques in which the pulse transverse both through the growth plate and through bone, combine two parameters: the bone speed of sound (SOS) and the growth plate thickness. Since both of these parameters change with age, the resulting effective SOS can be used for the classification of age groups as well as any one of these parameters alone.

[0141] In another embodiment of the present invention, optical transmission, rather than ultrasound transmission, is used to detect the presence or absence of a bone growth-plate in an examined bone.

[0142] Light propagates through different types of tissues in a different manner. There are two major mechanisms involved in light propagation through tissues: light absorption and light scattering. The absorption mechanism transforms light energy into heat through the interaction of the light radiation with the specific materials that constitute the tissue. The light scattering mechanism involves a process where the light radiation interacts with macroscopic objects like cell membranes, resulting in a change of the momentum of the radiation without energy conversion processes.

[0143] Light absorption is described by an absorption coefficient, ma, in the following manner:

[0144] The reduction in the intensity of a light due to absorption in a sample of thickness d is equal to exp(−mad). Light scattering is characterized by a scattering coefficient, ms, which describes the reduction of the intensity of the non-scattered light after propagating a distance d in a scattering material. This reduction is equal to exp(−msd). In a simplified model of light propagation through biological tissues the effect of both scattering and absorption can be described approximately as an effective attenuation coefficient, mt, obeying the following equation:

μt={square root}{square root over (3μa(1−gs)}

[0145] where g is the average of the cosine of the scattering angles; typically between 0.85 to 0.95 in biological tissues.

[0146] Light propagation in soft tissues, like fat and muscles, was studied intensively in the last two decades. Therefore, reliable data concerning soft tissue optical properties is available. Measurement of the optical properties of cartilage is also available due to the interest in optical techniques for cartilage reshaping (e.g., high-power laser ablation techniques). Several studies published in the recent years indicate that the optical effective light attenuation in cortical bone is significantly higher than the optical attenuation in both soft tissue and cartilage. To this end, see:

[0147] D. W. Ebert, C. Roberts, S. K. Farra, W. M. Johnston, A. S.Litsky and A. L. Bertone; “Articular cartilage optical properties in the spectral range 300-850 nm”; Journal of Biomedical Optics 3(3), 326-333 (July 1998);

[0148] A. Takeuchi, R. Araki, S. G. Proskurin, Y. Takahashi, Y. Yamada, J. Ishi, S. Katayama and A. Itabashi; “A new method of bone tissue measurement based upon light scattering”; Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 12(2), 261-266 (1997); and

[0149] A. Okamoto Ugnel and P. A. Oberg; “The optical properties of the cochlear bone”; Med. Eng. Phys. 19(7), 630-636 (March 1997).

[0150] Therefore a measurement of optical transmission through fingers or the wrist can also be used to identify the status of the bone/growth-plate. Devices operable in accordance with the above description shall therefore include a light source and a light sensor, positioned in a spaced apart configuration essentially as described for transmitter and receiver 26 and 28 in FIG. 2a.

[0151] In another embodiment of the present invention, skin parameters are used for age determination. The properties of the skin such as the skin thickness and ultrasonic echogenicity evolves during the childhood period. Probing of these parameters can be utilized in the classification to age groups according to the present invention. Seidenari et al. [S. Seidenari, G. Giusti, L. Bertoni, C. Magnoni and G. Pellacani; “Thickness and echogenicity of the skin in children as assessed by 20-MHz ultrasound”; Dermatology 201(3), 218-222 (2000)] studied both the skin thickness and the ultrasonic echogenicity of the skin in children and adults. The study revealed age-related variations in both skin thickness and in the ultrasonic echogenicity of the skin.

[0152] As stated above, gender determination is also within the scope of the present invention. Gender determination can be used for assisting in age determination which is based on bone growth-plate measurements, as gender related differences in bone growth-plate are apparent, as well as for restricting the access of a specific gender to, for example, Internet sites, rest-rooms, etc., for reasons further detailed above.

[0153] Referring now to FIGS. 13 and 14. In this embodiment of the present invention the biometric characteristics of voice and/or of facial features are used to determine the sex of the user, so as to increase the accuracy in determining whether the user is a child or adult, since bone growth is somewhat different for boys and girls as indicated earlier.

[0154]FIG. 13 is a schematic presentation of the system. It includes, an ultrasonic sensor 100 which generates a sensor output 102, a camera 104 to sense facial features and/or a microphone 106 to sense voice features of the user. Software 108 compares the outputs of camera 104 and/or microphone 106 with reference data 110, which correlates voice and/or facial characteristics to gender, so as to determine the gender of the user. Software 108 thus determines the gender of the user to indicate whether a female/age reference data 112 or a male growth-plate/age reference data 114 is to be used by an access control logic 116 to determine the access status as an output 118.

[0155]FIG. 14 is a flowchart illustrating the method that uses both the presence, absence or measure of a bone growth-plate and the determination of the gender of an individual, to control access.

[0156] Thus, as shown in FIG. 13, this method includes the following operations: measuring the user's finger-bone growth plate (block 120); measuring certain voice and/or facial features characteristics of gender (block 122); analyzing voice and/or facial features to determine whether the user is a male or a female (block 124); comparing the growth-plate measurement with reference data for males (block 126) or for females (block 128), as appropriate; and outputting a signal output indicating permission or denial of access (block 130), according to the results of this comparison.

[0157] While the invention has been described with respect to several embodiments, it will be appreciated that these are set forth merely for purposes of example, and that many other variations, modifications, and applications of the invention may be made. For example, while the description has mainly related to the use of the parameter of age to control access to the Internet, there are other parameters that can be used and other locations controlled. For instance, access may be based on the parameter of gender, e.g., to control access to a rest-room or a gay site. Access can also be controlled to other locations (e.g., bars, liquor stores, “adult” movie theaters, cigarette vending machines, gambling establishments, amusement rides, etc.), to other electronic media (e.g., TV programs, video, radio, tape compact disk and cassette players), to other computer related locations such as the computer itself or a video/computer game, to the telephone (e.g., chat numbers, shopping lines, adult lines). In addition to sensing the growth-plate in finger bones, other bone related biometric characteristics to be sensed include wrist, heel, or other bones. Other biometric characteristics to be sensed may include facial development, voice tone or vibration, dental development, skin condition, lung capacity, handwriting, hormones, minerals, chemical composition, hair, saliva, use of language or vocabulary, or body fat, each of which may by itself, and/or in combination with other data be indicative of age and/or gender.

[0158] The following references, for example, teach facial/voice recognition algorithms which can be used for determining the gender of an individual:

[0159] C. Adam, F. Eckstein, S. Milz, E. Schulte, C. Becker and R. Putz; “The distribution of cartilage thickness in the knee-joints of old-aged individuals—measurement by A-mode ultrasound”; Clinical Biomechanics 13(1), 1-10 (January 1998).

[0160] F. Eckstein, C. Adam, H. Sittek, C. Becker, S. Milz, E. Schulte, M. Reiser and R. Putz; “Non-Invasive determination of cartilage thickness throughout surfaces using magnetic resonance imaging”; Journal of Biomechanics 30(3), 285-289 (1997).

[0161] F. Lefebvre, N. Graillat, E. Cherin and G. Berger; “Automatic three-dimensional reconstruction of articular cartilage from high-resolution ultrasound acquisitions”; Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology 24(9), 1369-1381 (1998).

[0162] A. M. Aisen, W. J. McCune, A. MacGuire, P. L. Carson, T. M. Silver, S. Zafar Jefri and W. Martel; “Sonographic evaluation of the cartilage of the knee”; Radiology 153, 781-784 (1984).

[0163] J. Hodler and D. Resnick; “Current status of imaging of articular cartilage”; Skeletal Radiology 25, 703-709 (1996).

[0164] E. A. Ginzel and R. K. Ginzel; “Ultrasonic properties of a new low attenuation dry couplant elastomer”; NDTnet—Feb. 1996 vol. 1, No. 2.

[0165] M. E. Zevallos, S. K. Gayen, B. B. Das, M. Alrubaiee and R. R. Alfano; “Picosecond electronic time-gated imaging of bones in tissues”; IEEE Journal of Selected Topics in Quantum Electronics 5(4), 916-922 (July 1999).

[0166] V. Perapavat, W. Runge, J. Mans, A. Krause, J. Beuthan and G. Muller; “Development of a finger joint phantom for the optical simulation of early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis”; Biomed. Technik 42, 319-326 (Nov. 1997).

[0167] K. T.Dussik, D. J. Fritch, M. Kyriazidou and R. S. Sear; “Measurements of articular tissue with ultrasound”; Am. J. of Phys. Med. 37, 160-165 (1958).

[0168] S. A. Goss, R. L. Johnston and F. Dunn; “Comprehensive compilation of empirical ultrasonic properties of mammalian tissues”; J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 64 (2), 423-457 (1978).

[0169] D. Hans, C. Wu, C. F. Njeh, S. Zhao, P. Augat, D. Newitt, T. Link, Y. Lu, S. Majumdar and H. K. Genant; “Ultrasound velocity of trabecular cubes reflects mainly bone density and elasticity”; Calcif. Tissue Int. 64(1), 18-23 (Jan. 1999).

[0170] The Facial Recognition Project (FERET) sponsored by the US Defense Department. (www.dodcounterdrug.com/facialrecognition/).

[0171] The M2VTS Project: Multi-modal Biometrics Person Authentication. (www.tele.ac1.be/PROJECTTS/M2VTS/).

[0172] Testing with the YOHO CD-ROM Voice Verification Corpus Project, sponsored by the US Defense Department. (www.biometrics.org/REPORTS/ICASSP95.html).

[0173] The Center for Spoken Language Research (CSLR) University of Colorado, Boulder. (www.cslr.colorado.edu/welcome.html).

[0174] Face Recognition and Gender Determination, Laurenz Wiskott (1995) IWAFGR'95, Zurich (www.cnl.salk.edu/˜wiskott/Abstract/Wise Felkrue95.html).

[0175] Algorithm of Facial Aging, National Library of Medicine, PubMed Entry No. 10946949.

[0176] It will be appreciated by the schooled artisan that a plurality of biometric sensors, which measure different biometric parameters, can be used while implementing the present invention. These include, for example, magnetic sensors, infrasonic sensors, vibration detecting sensors and biochemical sensors.

[0177] Thus, the present invention provides a method and apparatus for controlling access of individuals to a service, device or location in order to restrict access to members of a particular age and/or gender category, by machine-sensing a predetermined biometric characteristic of the individual indicative of the particular age and/or gender category and utilizing the machine-sensed characteristic for automatically controlling access of the individual. The method and apparatus are particularly suited to controlling access of children to age-inappropriate Internet sites and offers a plurality of advantages, some of which are briefly discussed hereinbelow:

[0178] First, the present invention provides for full automation, whereas no supervision is required.

[0179] Second, the present invention is thorough in that it precludes circumvention by use, for example, of forged, stolen, or falsified documents, or use of a stolen or hacked password.

[0180] Third, the present invention provides for an objective solution to age verification, as no judgment is necessary or misapplied. There is no decision needed on whether to apply the test and it cannot be circumvented.

[0181] Fourth, the present invention provides for an easier, less intrusive, more transparent means with which age/gender can be determined. there is, in accordance with the present invention, no need to remember or input passwords, show age identification, or worry about lost passcards (scanning cards).

[0182] Fifth, the present invention can provide for continuing monitoring. This reduces the effectiveness of one individual temporarily posing as another to gain access.

[0183] Sixth, the present invention retains parental access in that parents can automatically prevent their children from accessing “age inappropriate” sites/programs while retaining automatic access for themselves.

[0184] Seventh, the present invention offers flexibility in the sense that it can require access permission prior to entering a general location or site, or, in the alternative, just a particular part of the location or site that may be inappropriate.

[0185] Eighth, the present invention can be used to prevent children from making phone calls to age-inappropriate phone numbers for purchasing goods and services, for placing bets on-line, or prevent children from placing credit cards orders without parental permission.

[0186] Ninth, the present invention provides for privacy, as the user is not specifically known or identifiable.

[0187] Tenth, the present invention is efficient in that it may take less time to grant or deny access than, say, keying in a password.

[0188] Eleventh, the present invention can be used to establish parental control and adult surf-free zone in the Internet which is of vital importance to the protection of children.

[0189] It is appreciated that certain features of the invention, which are, for clarity, described in the context of separate embodiments, may also be provided in combination in a single embodiment. Conversely, various features of the invention, which are, for brevity, described in the context of a single embodiment, may also be provided separately or in any suitable subcombination.

[0190] Although the invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments thereof, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, it is intended to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and broad scope of the appended claims. All publications, patents and patent applications mentioned in this specification are herein incorporated in their entirety by reference into the specification, to the same extent as if each individual publication, patent or patent application was specifically and individually indicated to be incorporated herein by reference. In addition, citation or identification of any reference in this application shall not be construed as an admission that such reference is available as prior art to the present invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification726/7
International ClassificationA61B8/08, A61B5/117, G06Q10/00, G06F21/20, H04L29/06
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q10/10, H04L63/0861
European ClassificationG06Q10/10, H04L63/08F
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