Unlocking phones tomorrow might just be an ear away

A new innovative breakthrough at the University at Buffalo shows that biometric authorization can be achieved using another unique aspect of the human body — one’s own ear canal.

Ear-worn audio devices may not be the norm, but they are pretty universal today when it comes to our mobile device-centric consumer tech industry. It is one of the most basic optional peripherals that one can use to enhance their usage of any computer or gadget.

Zhanpeng Jin, one of the lead researchers of the study, said that he first became inspired to develop a new ear device when he witnessed the sheer amount of students around the university wearing headphones and earphones. This inspiration eventually led to the development of EarEcho.

EarEcho is basically a device that uses biometric authorization to unlock a device. It uses the special contours of a person’s ear canal to provide identity confirmation. According to the research published on the device, each individual has a distinct pattern on their ear canals. This then causes audio waves to react differently when it passes through one. The signature sound is then scanned and analyzed, to be verified by Ear Echo once it hits a match.

The researchers carefully developed the device to be able to clearly detect acoustic variations and to reduce outside noise that could interfere with the audio pattern matching. Within a small sample of about twenty users, EarEacho was able to show a 97 percent accuracy and reliability when it comes to confirming the identity of the ear canal, and matching the pattern that it had registered.

At its most basic level, EarEcho could be used as an additional or alternative method of unlocking your smartphone. However, according to Jin, the best way to use its technology is to constantly monitor the user.

You can basically just skip the authorization step, and go straight to main access without re-entering authorization codes, so long as the user stays “active”. If the device gets compromised, for example when stolen, the user can simply take off the earbuds, and the “authorization circuit” gets broken immediately, rendering the phone unusable until more manual methods are used.

Featured Image credit: josephzohn via Flickr

About the Author

Christian Crisostomo
Christian is a passionate geek who loves to let everyone know the latest in science and technology. He is also a gamer at heart and is often looking for a balanced compromise that could allow him to present both sides of his interests appreciably.

Be the first to comment on "Unlocking phones tomorrow might just be an ear away"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*