It’s easy to create a powerful password. It’s easier still to forget it. Without a password manager, we’re often left answering personal security questions about our mother’s maiden name or high school calculus teacher to authorize access. But even these methods fail. Personally identifiable information is no way to secure an account.
Unique biological markers, however, have made our bodies the password managers of the future. Some smartphones have granted users access through face and fingerprint recognition for years, though the technology still proves vulnerable to hacks. Now, researchers from Saarland University and the University of Stuttgart in Germany want to bypass fingerprints and faulty memory, and instead let you access your devices with your skull.
By tapping into features already available on wearables like Google Glass, the researchers have developed an innovative way to identify users by the unique qualities of their skulls. Since each of skull is marginally different in shape, density, and size, each one resonates sound in a particular pattern. SkullConduct sends a sound pattern into a person’s head, where the vibrations rebound off the skull and return a sound pattern that’s unique to the wearer.
SkullConduct exploits Google Glass’s built-in microphone to register the sounds and the built-in “bone conduction speaker,” which is conventionally used to transmit sounds through the skull and to the inner ear like some hearing aids do.
The SkullConduct method is promising but not yet perfect. For one, it only works with wearables that have microphones and bone conduction speakers — and there simply aren’t that many products that boast both. Furthermore, in a ten-participant trial, the researchers were able to identify a wearer’s identify with 97 percent accuracy — but unfortunately the trial was conducted without any background noise, which hardly replicates real life. However, SkullConduct creator Andreas Bulling and his team recognize these shortcomings and intent to test their technique in everyday scenarios, including making the product compatible with more common devices such as smartphones.