Yahoo trial ear-print technology identification in phones

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The internet giant Yahoo is trying to develop technology which will allow mobile phone users to unlock their smartphones using their ears, instead of using a password or fingerprint scanner.

Named ‘Bodyprint’, and developed at Yahoo Labs, the initial trials involved 12 participants. The development team found that the technology was able to achieve an accuracy rate of 99.8 per cent.

It is hoped that this technology, which is also looking into biometric information from fists and the way people hold their smartphones, will be able to replace fingerprints. The security of fingerprint scanners on smartphones has been called into question, and although gaining in popularity, their implementation is costly.

Using the touchscreen as an image sensor would enable biometric data to be taken, at a reduced cost. Although the input resolution is not particularly high, the team said: “The surface area is large, allowing the touch sensor to scan users’ body parts, such as ears, fingers, fists and palms by pressing them against the display.”

“Due to their cost, capacitive fingerprint scanners have been limited to top-of-the line phones, a result of the required resolution and quality of the sensor,” the team added.

Professor Sasse, from University College London, believes that such a system could lead to a completely new way to secure mobile phones. She said “Research into this has been going on for a few years, but it is new in terms of deployment.”

In Switzerland, burglars have been identified by their ears after the police take a print of their ear. Professor Sasse explained: “Burglars tend to listen on the windowpane to see if anyone is home,” and this biometric data was then analysed just like with fingerprints, to help catch the criminals.