'SilentSense' Identifies Users by Their Touch

Dennis Faas's picture

Fingerprint scanners, like the one included with Apple's upcoming iPhone 5S, present us with a convenient way to secure our smartphones. But there may be another way to protect your favorite touchscreen device.

Illinois Institute of Technology researcher Cheng Bo recently unveiled 'SilentSense', a technology that uses a touchscreen smartphone's built-in sensors to identify you.

Simply put, SilentSense uses these sensors to learn how you use your touchscreen device. That means it carefully measures pressure patterns, touch duration, and even fingertip size and position to determine if the user is you, or a thief. (Source: gigaom.com)

Touchscreen Habits Measured Using Accelerometer, Gyroscope

The Illinois researchers behind SilentSense say it uses a smartphone's own accelerometer and gyroscope to learn your touchscreen habits. Bo says the device can even learn how you walk to determine if the device is being carried off by a stranger.

"Different users, dependent on sex and age among other things, will have different habits in interacting," Bo noted.

Tests have shown that SilentSense can be effective. Researchers asked 100 users to use the technology with their smartphones and simply act normally. At ten touchscreen taps SilentSense was able to verify a user 99 per cent of the time.

In fact, the technology could pick out the right user 98 per cent of the time after just three taps.

SilentSense doesn't just work when a user attempts to log on. Instead, it's almost constantly operating; it shuts down when non-critical applications (like games) are being used, but jumps into high gear when a user starts using sensitive apps like email and instant messaging.

Exciting Tech, But Big Questions Remain Unanswered

It's an exciting new technology, to say the least. "This is interesting, creative research," notes Notre Dame University biometrics expert, Kevin Bowyer.

"It could help preserve privacy if the phone could recognise if the owner or a guest was using it and lock guests out of some applications." (Source: newscientist.com)

Of course, there are still big questions to be answered. For one, what happens if SilentSense suspects a phone has been stolen? And how can a legitimate user get their phone's functionality back if a mistake is made?

Obviously, there's still work to be done. But there's no denying that the idea has a lot of potential.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet