The Pentagon- headquarters of the Department of Defense, USA- is developing technology that uses the sensors present inside a smartphone, to recognise subtle biofeedback, like the gait, typing patterns and grip of a person.
It’s in the final phase of testing technology that will reduce smartphone users’ reliance on difficult-to-remember passwords or an endless stream of text message verification codes. It could add an extra layer of security to devices.
The Department is working with a contractor to use sensors to create a unique profile for how each smartphone user does various things, such as—walking with the phone, typing on it, pulling it out of their pocket, etc. If someone unauthorised tries to access the phone, it matches the usage with the already established profile.
If the similarity is below a certain threshold, the unauthorised person gets locked out. If a person is locked out in error, they could regain access by using a more standard log in, such as a password.
The main concern with the technology is that it would collect a lot of data from the user, which might be an invasion of privacy. However, because the sensors used to gather data are present on the phone’s hardware, the information they collect won’t be available to phone apps or other third parties reducing privacy concerns. The only information that should leave the hardware side is when the phone user’s profile doesn’t match with the standard profile.
The technology is different from a surveillance system- the likes of which, the Chinese artificial intelligence company Watrix is developing- in that it doesn’t intend to use the gait recognition features to monitor people. The primary intention behind Pentagon’s pet project is to make devices more secure- similar to the working of facial recognition systems.
The technology isn’t new. Scientists in Japan, the United Kingdom and China have been researching gait recognition for over a decade, in order to recognise people by the way they walk. Very few have tried to commercialize gait recognition. Israel-based FST Biometrics shut down earlier this year amid company infighting after encountering technical difficulties with its products
The expected time of arrival of this technology in the market is after two years. This isn’t the first time that a technology developed primarily for the defense has been incorporated into the mainstream world. Past developments have included the currently widespread Global Positioning System.
“I’m not going to say that we’re going to create something that’s as broad and as grand as GPS or the Internet, but there’s a history of the department working on things and those things ending up in consumer devices,” Steven Wallace, a scientist at the Pentagon’s Defense Information Systems Agency told The Washington Post.