Science

Soon, heartbeats enabled log in for gadgets

PTI New York | Updated on October 07, 2012 Published on October 07, 2012

Your heartbeat can soon be your password to log in to your smartphone, tablet, gaming consoles and other devices.

Researchers are developing a new technology that will allow gadgets to identify their owners just with a touch by measuring their heartbeats through their fingertips, web site TechNewsDaily reported.

“ECG biometrics identifies people by their cardiac rhythm. Not just their heart rate, but the actual shape of their heartbeat,” said Foteini Agrafioti, an engineer at the University of Toronto who developed a version of the technology and started a company, Bionym, to market it.

Such a heartbeat ID, embedded into a phone or tablet, could lock out unauthorised users or bring up individuals’ saved preferences on a shared device, researchers said.

Heartbeats could be a secure alternative — or supplement — to more established biological ID measures, such as fingerprints. And unlike some futuristic identification schemes, heartbeat IDs are technologically ready to go.

When pictured in a graph called an electrocardiogram (ECG), human heartbeats all share the same general shape, each beat represented by the up-and-down spike familiar from medical dramas.

For generations, doctors measured that spike by sticking sensors on people’s chests. Recently, however, researchers have developed cheap, thin sensors that are able to measure ECGs through the fingertips.

People just need to touch the sensors for a few seconds, using one finger from each hand. The finger sensors have made it possible to embed heartbeat measurements into smartphones and other devices, although they aren’t precise enough for doctors’ diagnoses.

Meanwhile, engineers have found that the exact shape of ECG spikes varies from person to person. Everyone has his or her own unique shape, which remains even during heart rate changes caused by excitement or exercise. That shape also stays the same over time.

Different ECG—analysing computer programs have slightly different accuracy rates, but in general, they’re accurate enough to work as ID systems on their own, Agrafioti said.

“Any device you hold with both hands, such as an iPad or smartphone, can all very much do ECG recognition,” Agrafioti said.

Published on October 07, 2012
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