The system uses low-level Doppler radar to measure your heart, and then continually monitors your heart to make sure no one else has stepped in to run your computer. Credit: Bob Wilder/University at Buffalo.
A new non-contact, remote biometric tool could be the next advance in computer security. Say hello to heart scan to unlock your computer.
Forget facial recognition technology or fingerprint computer identification as a University at Buffalo-led team has developed a computer security system using the dimensions of the heart as identifier.
The old-fashioned password is quickly looking like an ancient relic of the 20th century. Biometric security seems to be the way of the future, with fingerprints, retina scans and facial recognition only the beginning. Practically every conceivable unique biological signature is currently being investigated as a potential form of security.
“No two people with identical hearts have ever been found, and people’s hearts do not change shape, unless they suffer from serious heart disease,” said Wenyao Xu, PhD, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in UB’s school of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The system, which may eventually be used for smartphones and airport screening barricades, is a safe and potentially more effective alternative to passwords and other biometric identifiers, the researchers said.
“We would like to use it for every computer because everyone needs privacy,” Xu said.
“Logging-in and logging-out are tedious,” he said.
To make sure no one else steps in to run your computer, the system uses low-level Doppler radar to measure your heart, and then continually monitors your heart. The system needs about eight seconds to scan a heart the first time, and thereafter the monitor can continuously recognize that heart.
The signal strength of the system’s radar “is much less than Wi-Fi,” and therefore does not pose any health threat, Xu said.
“We are living in a Wi-Fi surrounding environment every day, and the new system is as safe as those Wi-Fi devices,” he said. “The reader is about 5 milliwatts, even less than 1 percent of the radiation from our smartphones.”
The system, which was three years in the making, uses the geometry of the heart, its shape and size, and how it moves to make an identification. The researchers are scheduled to present a paper describing the technology at the 23rd Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Communication (MobiCom) in Utah in October.
Heart-based biometrics systems have been used for almost a decade, primarily with electrodes measuring electrocardiogram signals, “but no one has done a non-contact remote device to characterize our hearts’ geometry traits for identification, ” he said.
The new system has several advantages over current biometric tools, like fingerprints and retinal scans, Xu said. First, it’s a passive, non-contact device, so users are not bothered with authenticating themselves whenever they log-in. And second, it monitors users constantly. This means the computer won’t operate if a different person is in front of it. Therefore, people do not have to remember to log-off when away from their computers.
Xu plans to miniaturize the system and have it installed onto the corners of computer keyboards. The system could also be used for user identification on cell phones. For airport identification, a device could monitor a person up to 30 meters away.
Xu and collaborators will present the paper – “Cardiac Scan: A Non-Contact and Continuous Heart-based User Authentication System” – at MobiCom, which is billed as the flagship conference in mobile computing. Organized by the Association for Computing Machinery, the conference will be held from Oct 16-20, 2017 in Snowbird, Utah.
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