It sounds like something Q might have cooked up for 007.
“Take a look at this seemingly normal looking smartphone, Bond.”
“Yes, it does look rather uninspiring.”
“Ah, but this is something special. Should it fall into enemy hands, it will intelligently recognize the villain and self destruct, protecting all of your valuable data.”
“You’ve done it again Q.”
As fanciful as that may sound, it’s not far off the mark. The Department of Homeland Security in the United States is currently working on just such a phone. Teaming up with Boeing, a leader in aerospace and defense technology, DHS has begun work on a smartphone that redefines security. If anyone other than it’s owner tries to access data on the handset, or tampers with the device in any way, the smartphone will, quite literally, self destruct.
The ‘Brain Chip’
The Department of Homeland Security has recently confirmed that it is working with Boeing to develop what they are calling a ‘Brain Chip‘ for smartphones. The new chip technology is the latest advance in so called ‘intelligent security’. In effect, the Brain Chip has the capacity to simulate human learning. Over time, and regular use of the smartphone, the chip ‘learns’ from the owner’s behavior patterns. The Brain Chip monitors and records the way its owner uses the phone’s various features, and even collects data on the way he or she types, walks, and talks. In this way the Brain Chip can deliver an extra layer of security should the smartphone fall into the wrong hands. If the phone is used by anyone other than its owner, whose characteristics don’t match those recorded on the Brain Chip, the smartphone will lock, remotely alert security forces and, yes, even self destruct.
The Neuromorphic Secret
The secret to the ‘Brain Chip’ lies in the recent advances made in neuromorphic circuitry, which attempts to mimic the behavior of human neurons. Information is converted into electronic pulses, in much the same way as occurs in the human brain, allowing neuromorphic chips to not only record data, but to extrapolate from that data. In essence, a neuromorphic chip has the ability to ‘learn’ from experience, albeit in a limited sense, and as such is a step along the path to true artificial intelligence. DHS and Boeing have taken this technology, and adapted it for use in their experimental smartphone. Data collected by the already present sensors and cameras on smartphones can be indexed and collated by the neuromorphic chip to deliver security features far beyond what is currently available. It is this technology that is powering the so-called ‘spy phone’, allowing it to recognize its user and self destruct when it falls into enemy hands.
The Boeing Spy Phone
If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Just last year Boeing partnered with BlackBerry to produce the Boeing Black, which was itself a major step forward in smartphone security. Designed to deliver the ultimate in secure communications, the Boeing Black was built to self destruct if tampered with, destroying both data and handset. That’s one of the reasons DHS chose the firm to help develop the ‘Brain Chip’, and the ultra-secure smartphone it powers. Beyond their experience with the aerospace and defense industries, Boeing had already proven themselves in the field of smartphone security and government agencies and contractors were already using the Boeing Black. Both Boeing and the US Department of Homeland Security are remaining fairly tight lipped about the specific of their new ultra-secure smartphone. The majority of its features are listed as ‘secret’, and will no doubt remain classified for some time.
As exciting as the new ‘Brain Chip’ powered spy phone may be, there is an obvious catch. Experiments with the device are in the early stages, and even if successful the so-called ‘spy phone’ will only be available to a select few. Members of GCHQ and MI5 may well be able to get their hands on one, but sadly (or not, depending on your point of view) they will not be made available to the general public. Still, the advances in neuromorphic circuitry and artificial intelligence point the way to the future of cyber security, and as the world becomes increasingly interconnected these innovations are sure to play a part in the future of communications technologies.