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Biometric Security for Mobile Devices

Researchers and phone manufactures have been working on ways to improve the security of mobile devices for quite some time now. The objective has always been to allow owners – and only owners – to unlock their phones and tablets using features built in to the mobile devices, like front-facing cameras or digital touchpads. Technologists the world over are now developing practical applications for everyday use.

Facial recognition is another method available to protect access to mobile devices. Though it has been around for almost 50 years and is accurate more than 90% of the time, facial recognition technology has yet to spread to a majority of smartphones and tablets. Currently, only Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean Android mobile operating systems support the technology, and even then not in high volumes. However, this technology should see a strong increase in its usage thanks to a new generation of smartphones and it is predicted that by the end of 2012, nearly 20% of phones shipped will integrate facial recognition capabilities.

Two Japanese high-tech firms, Softbank Mobile Corp and Universal Robot Co Ltd, have developed a palm recognition technology to identify users. This technology uses the built-in camera of a smartphone to detect an individual’s unique palm patterns of lines, ridges, veins and capillaries to allow the user to unlock the device.

While fingerprints and facial recognition techniques are the most well-known biometric methods to verify identity, scientists from the University of Tampere in Finland are working on a new technology that uses unique eye movement patterns as a way to determine one’s identity. Again using the built-in camera on mobile devices, this technology detects the eyes’ saccades – quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction, which occur involuntarily all the time (such as when reading this sentence) – and allows users to access their phone without any password. The biggest advantage of this new technology is that unlike fingerprints or iris patterns, eye saccades cannot be copied and used fraudulently.

Though these different technologies are still in development and/or not present in large volumes, they may soon play a big role in the fierce and competitive world of phone manufacturers. Now that smartphones have made their way into nearly everyone’s pocket, the question of securing the information they contain is an important matter. Phone numbers, confidential data, pictures and other private information generated and saved by different applications on the phone are generally just protected by passwords, and everyone knows how easy it can be to break those kinds of barriers.

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