Tablet owners may soon unlock their devices using biometric sensors, as security technology progresses beyond traditional passwords.
Napa Sae-Bae, a graduate student at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University, is creating an iPad app to verify users’ hand shape and finger length. Sae-Bae’s biometric analyzing algorithm has already yielded a 90 percent accuracy rate, suggesting her innovation may have widespread application when it debuts in a year.
This project improves on Sae-Bae’s existing tablet app, which unlocks iPads in response to hand gestures like palm rotation.
“Unlike gestures, fingerprints are physiological physical traits that you can’t change,” she explained about her current research. “There’s the feeling that these are supposed to be secure and private.”
Biometric identification research like Sae-Bae’s may revolutionize the mobile industry if it succeeds, as consumers demand new and better ways to protect their data against hackers.
A hospital in Canada already uses fingerprint scanners to verify doctors’ identities, allowing them to reach medical records with one swipe rather than entering long passwords.
Fujitsu, a Japanese company, is developing another kind of biometric sensor called PalmSecure that recognizes users’ vein patterns instead of fingerprints or hand length.
The company maintains that hand veins never change, while fingerprints and other external hand features may fade or scar over time.
Echoing Fujitsu’s logic, researchers at the National Chung Hsing University in Taiwan are building heartbeat scanners to identify mobile phone and tablet owners. Every person’s heartbeat is unique, making this biological marker an ideal password.
These seemingly foolproof innovations are designed to prevent the increasing incidence of hackers stealing or cracking personal and company passwords. Recent hacks against worldwide governments and corporations suggest no traditional password is safe, not even those at the Pentagon or FBI.
Despite the danger, many mobile phone owners and IT departments still use convenient security codes like “password1″ or “1234,” leaving them easily susceptible to malicious intrusions.
But while a palm or retina-scanning app may end the need for such passwords, this technology could also backfire.
For example, the facial detection system on Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus is easily fooled by a picture, negating its usefulness as a security tool.
Biometric identification may discourage today’s hackers more effectively than traditional passwords, but like any security tool it will likely challenge a new breed of hackers to twist it for their purposes.