Touchscreen biometric recognises you from taps and swipes
The fingerprint recognition feature on the upcoming iPhone 5s, Touch ID (pictured), might be eye-catching, but you still have to log into your device. Identifying someone by the way they tap and swipe on a touchscreen might be the more natural, unobtrusive future of smartphone biometrics.
Developed by Cheng Bo at the Illinois Institute of Technology and his colleagues, SilentSense does just that. Using the phone’s built-in sensors, it records the unique patterns of pressure, duration and fingertip size and position each user exhibits when interacting with their phone or tablet.
Machine learning algorithms then turn this into a signature that identifies the user – and will lock out anyone whose usage patterns do not match.
To increase the system’s accuracy, the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope measure how much the screen moves when you are jabbing at it. They can also pick up on your unique gait as you walk while using the screen.
“Different users, dependent on sex and age among other things, will have different habits in interacting,” says Bo.
In tests, 100 users were told to use the smartphone’s touchscreen as they would normally. SilentSense was able to identify the phone’s owner with 99 per cent accuracy after no more than 10 taps. Even with an average of 2.3 touches the system was able to verify the user 98 per cent of the time.
To save on power, the software stops checking the user’s identity when apps like games are being used. To maintain security, it automatically switches on when more sensitive applications, such as email or SMS, are accessed.
“This is interesting, creative research,” says Kevin Bowyer, a biometrics researcher at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. “It could help preserve privacy if the phone could recognise if the owner or a guest was using it and lock guests out of some applications.”
Journal reference: arXiv:1309.0073v1
Syndicated content: Niall Firth, New Scientist