Biometric authentication may soon be only a heartbeat away

heartbeat login authentication omron healthcare 4

Biometrics are an exciting potential source of unique, difficult-to-forge login credentials. One of those possibilities involves the user’s heartbeat, which researchers at the Birmingham State University in New York believe could be a perfect secondary authentication system, especially for medical records.

One of the biggest problems facing the digital world is and always has been security. How to make sure that only the right people have access to information is a difficult question to answer. Passwords work to some extent, as do unique emails and secondary authentication applications. But added complexity leads to spiraling energy needs and higher chances of false positives or false negatives.

For that reason, researchers have been investigating ways to enable logins and authentication. Face tracking through systems like Windows Hello are becoming more popular, but one interesting possibility for future biometric logins is heartbeat tracking.

The big advantage of tracking the electrical activity of the heart is that it is even more unique than a thumbprint. Like other biometric data, it is always with the user — as long as they have applicable tracking hardware — and uses much less energy for detection than other types of biometric data.

Researchers at Birmingham State University have been running trials using fitness-tracker-recorded heart rhythms, and have found this to be an effective way to authenticate someone. In fact they believe it could be one of the best-suited systems for unlocking personal medical data, especially in the future when we send much more information to our doctors on a regular basis using fitness trackers (thanks ComptuerWorld).

However, Zhanpeng Jin, a co-author of the paper that champions heartbeat biometric authentication, acknowledges that there are some drawbacks. The team’s research highlights how stress, exercise, or health problems can have a dramatic effect on a user’s heart rate. Because of this, Jin believes that heartbeat data shouldn’t be used as a catchall authentication system, but could provide a very accurate, low-energy, secondary authentication factor that would be very hard to fool.