Smartphone manufacturers and software developers are constantly working to improve mobile security, and a large part of that job is finding reliable alternatives to the traditional character-based password. Biometrics is the watchword of the day, and security experts are increasingly turning to the human body to provide living pass codes that will make mobile devices safer and more secure. We’ve already seen fingerprint scanners included on many high end smartphones and phablets, and just this year Fujitsu unveiled new retinal scanning technology that allows users to lock and unlock their mobile devices with the wink of an eye. But fingerprint scanners have been shown to be easily spoofed, and retinal scanners are bulky, tech heavy, and a long way from becoming market ready. Still, no one is giving up on biometrics, and Yahoo has just entered the fray with ‘Bodyprint’, a new bio-scanning technology that uses a variety of body parts to make smartphones and other mobile devices more secure.
Yahoo’s ‘Bodyprint’ takes a different approach to bio-scanning and smartphone security. One of the inherent problems with fingerprint or retinal authentication methods is that they require extremely high resolution scanning technology to be effective. Now, smartphone displays may have gotten larger over the years, but they still don’t deliver the higher resolution needed to make most biometric scans truly reliable. Increasing the resolution of most smartphone displays would make them bulkier, more tech heavy, and more expensive; ultimately making them difficult to market to the average consumer. Yahoo, and their team of developers, claims to have beaten that problem by concentrating on the size of the display as opposed to its actual resolution. Rather than trying to scan and capture the subtle details of a fingerprint or retina, ‘Bodyprint’ relies on larger body parts to accurately identify the user and secure the device. Yahoo’s ‘Bodyprint’ ignores the eyes and fingerprints, and secures mobile devices using bio-scans of the user’s ear, fist, palm, and fingers.
The ‘Ears’ Have It
Yahoo’s ‘Bodyprint’ technology concentrates on five areas of the human body to scan, capture, and use as an alternative to a character based pass code. So far, the best results were achieved using the ear, which is as distinctive as a fingerprint. ‘Bodyprint’ scans the user’s ear, capturing the unique lines and whirls, and stores it for future reference. The device can then be quickly unlocked by simply holding it to the ear. In tests, ‘Bodyprint’s’ ear recognition software was 99.8% successful, with a failure rate of 1 in 13; much more impressive than the current state of fingerprint or retinal authentication. But Yahoo’s ‘Bodyprint’ technology can go even further, using other points of authentication to secure mobile devices. The development team was also able to use the new bio-scanning technology to capture and recognize a variety of unique shapes made by the human hand. While fractionally less successful than ear recognition, ‘Bodyprint’ was also able to capture and authenticate the print of a human fist and the shape of a user’s palm when pressed against the display screen, as well as the unique shape of a person’s fingers as they naturally grip a smartphone from around the back.
‘Bodyprint’ Tests are Ongoing
Consumers won’t be seeing ‘Bodyprint’ technology on their smartphones any time soon, and more testing needs to be done before it is ready for the market. However, Yahoo is confident that it has a lead on the next generation of biometric pass codes. By making a virtue of the average smartphone’s low resolution display, Yahoo has been able to do what other biometric hopefuls have not; namely, making a bio-scanner that is accurate and effective without the need for any substantial overhaul of current mobile technology. Indeed, if and when higher resolution smartphone screens hit the market, Yahoo’s ‘Bodyprint’ will become an even more reliable method for bio-recognition.
Biometric security is the focus of many industry experts and analysts who want to put an end to the traditional character-based password. So far, however, attempts to bring reliable and affordable bio-scanning tech to the market have met with little success. Yahoo’s ‘Bodyprint’, though still in its early stages, looks like it could be poised to take biometric security to the next level by delivering bio-scanning technology that is both effective and affordable.