Unlock a PC with the power of your heart

Doris Richards
September 26, 2017

While most of the known biometric security features that are now provided on smartphones and laptops are inconvenient, they are presently unavoidable.

While the new Apple iPhone X might boast of advanced biometrics with its Face Unlock facial recognition system, there are new authentication systems in the fray - researchers at the University of Buffalo, New York, have developed a new authentication system that can scan a user's heart's shape and size from a distance and use it to authenticate devices.

They believe it will be the next advancement in computer security because "no two people with identical hearts have ever been found".

Because it uses low-level Doppler radar to monitor heart dimensions, it also works at range - up to 98ft away to be exact.

"We would like to use it for every computer because everyone needs privacy", said Wenyao Xu, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the study's lead author. "Logging-in and logging-out are tedious", he added. Besides, according to Xu, the signal strength used by the system is quite low, about 5 milliwatts, means it's safe for you.

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.


From a body odor-based ID system, to vein scanning and "brain-prints", your body is full of unique biometric markers that can be harnessed as a personalized passcode.

It will also be less harmful than Wi-Fi and other smartphone authentication systems, which emit harmful SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) radiation, since it uses a 5 milliwatts reader, which will emit less than 1 percent of radiation now emitted by smartphones. The report also noted that when a person goes through serious heart disease, it is possible that hearts may change shape.

The new system has several advantages over current biometric tools, like fingerprints and retinal scans, Xu said. It's a passive, non-contact device, means you don't have to authenticate yourself every time you log in.

Currently, it uses a large apparatus, but the researchers want to miniaturize the system so that it will fit on the corners of keyboards and even on smartphones. The report says that this will ensure that a locked computer, for example, is not being used by any other person.

Another potential sci-fi use for this heart scanner is that it could be used to track and identify people at airports and other public places.

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. It can also work from up to 30 metres away for security applications.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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