The next generation of smartphones will have to address two key areas of performance. First, they will need to be strong and sturdy devices, capable of standing up to the daily abuse suffered by most mobile phones. Second, they will have to deliver a new level of security that protects the user from hackers and malicious software. Finally, they will have to be sleek and stylish if they are going to successfully compete in the crowded smartphone market. So maybe that’s three key areas. Turing Robotics Industries (TRI), a joint US and China start up, claim to have developed a smartphone that successfully addresses all of these concerns, and they are preparing to launch it on the market later this year. The Turing Phone, manufactured from liquid metal and featuring unique encryption protocols, is said to be stronger than titanium and impossible to hack. It’s also a fine looking bit of kit.
The Turing Phone’s metal chassis is built out of ‘liquidmorphium’, which TRI explains is an “amorphous alloy of zirconium, copper, aluminum, nickel and silver”. ‘Liquidmorphium’ has an atomic structure that more closely resembles glass than other common metals, and as such is said to be stronger than steel or aluminum. TRI promises that the Turing will be the sturdiest, and most resilient, smartphone to hit the market. That being said, TRI hasn’t sacrificed strength for fashion. Early glimpses of the Turing Phone show a handset that is sleek, stylish, and downright elegant; rivaling many of the high end smartphones currently holding sway over the market.
State of the Art Security
The Turing’s liquid metal build may capture the imagination, but security is the real focus of TRI’s new smartphone. Chief executive SYL Chao sees an inherent flaw in the way smartphones currently encrypt and authenticate data. “Today,” Chao says, “we have a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and Identity Based Encryption (IBE). You submit a private key to a public server where a public certificate is issued to sender and receiver, so we refer to that as a cetralised third-party issuer.” According to Chao, relying on a system of third-party servers is what makes smartphones vulnerable to hackers. The Turing Phone eliminates this security risk by avoiding third-party servers all together. “We have what we call a master public key and a master private key,” said Chao,” and instead of hosting the keys on a server, we bundle these two keys into a hardware chip on the Turing Key that we call the Turing Imitation Key.’ Encryption and authentication is kept offline, and is entirely handled by the Turing device itself, thereby shutting out potential hackers and cyber criminals.
However, it should be noted that there is a catch to the Turing encryption process. It only works within a network of other Turing devices, and calls or data sent to and from non-Turing phones would still have to rely on third-party servers to complete the data transfer. Still, it is an interesting solution to the problem of mobile security, and on that may point the way to a new type of data encryption and authentication for smartphones and other mobile devices.
The Turing Specs
The Turing Phone is schedule to start shipping in August, with a price tag that matches its high end status. Initially, two versions of the Turing will be available – a 64GB version priced at around £500, and a 128GB version coming in at around £600 before VAT. The high cost of the Turing Phone is reflected in its specs and features, and the handsets boast 5.5 inch HD displays, front and back cameras (8MP and 13MP respectively), and a 3000 mAh battery. The Turing carries Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 processor, and is expected to run the latest iteration of Android’s Lollipop operating system.
Naming your first product after famed cryptologist and mathematician Alan Turing definitely makes a bold statement, but TRI is determined to follow up on their promise of delivering a smartphone that is stronger and more secure than any other mobile device currently on the market. It’s a tall order, and only time will tell if TRI and the Turing Phone will capture the imagination of the public, and inspire them to pay what is admittedly a hefty price for security. The Turing Phone is definitely innovative, and TRI’s approach to cyber security is unique, but at a cost of £500 to £600 it may be remember more for pointing to the future of smartphone security than for setting the mobile phone market on fire.