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Alexis Ternoy
Alexis Ternoy 12 August 2015
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Brain Waves Unlock iPhone

Researchers in Spain have found a way to identify a person by brain waves. But it may be some time until you see this on your Smart Phone.

Researchers in Spain have found a way to identify a person by brain waves. But it may be some time until you see this on your Smart Phone.



Fingerprint readers are hot right now (as you can read in my blog post “Police secretly take fingerprints with Apple’s swipe“) as a way to authenticate and unlock a phone. But there are problems. What if you cut or scar the finger used. Or get dirt on it, much less need to remove gloves in sub-zero weather.

A team of cognitive scientists in Spain discovered a way to use brain waves. What they did is have subjects read a list of acronyms like “FBI” and “DVD.” As the subjects read each acronym, their brains were scanned in the regions for reading and recognition. Researchers found that each person produces a unique patten of electrical activity. Over time, researchers could predict which participant was reading the words based on these unique patterns.

The prediction was not 100% accurate, but within 94%. Researchers are confident that they could get that number even higher. The goal would be to get that number to 100% with just one key word. That would mean a user could open their phone by just thinking of one word.

This all sounds great until you see the size and complexity of the equipment being used to scan the brain. Imagine walking around with 50 electrodes taped to your head, and wired to your phone. And the researchers did not study whether people’s brain waves change over time for the same word. This could foul the hole idea up.

Still, the idea of opening doors and devices with the power of the mind seems futuristic – the stuff of science fiction. But the need is real. Passwords are an inconvenience. No one likes them and the number of password managers (apps and websites) to help us remember them is staggering.

Most police will tell you they get passwords from the sticky-notes people post to their computer screens – which remind the user of their passwords. So the idea of finger print and eyeball scanners is not bad.

Security experts tell us that the best security is two-form authentication. Something we HAVE and something we KNOW (I use it for this blog). Like a key and a password. Oddly, a fingerprint is only something we have. How many spy movies have you seen where they cut off the hand of the guy with security clearance, to gain access to a locked room.

Two-factor authentication would require BOTH the hand scan AND a password.


But for most of us, one-factor is enough. So fingerprint, password or a retina scan would be enough. And if these researchers can prove the concept, likely you’ll see brain scanning coming to a device near you soon.

Of course, this would require us to remember the keyword. Likely if this technology is ever implemented, the device would flash the keyword on the screen so the user could see it, thus generating the brainwaves needed to unlock the device.

Wonder if you had a head cold, if this would mess up the brainwave pattern?

Original post here

Find out more on the future of technology at the DLUK Trends Briefing on the 24th September 2015

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