A prototype device could be used to transmit user-specific IDs or passwords as tiny voltage bursts through the user’s finger to a touchscreen.
A prototype ‘ring’ device from WINLAB at Rutgers University could soon be used to confirm your identity on smartphones and tablets. The battery-powered ring stores a password or ID as a code and uses touch to uniquely identify users. As a user swipes his finger across a device’s touchscreen, a signal generator transmits the stored password as tiny voltage spikes through their skin. The device’s touchscreen picks up these spikes and reads them using software, allowing users to access their devices without typing in a password.
The ring could allow apps to distinguish multiple users using the same device, provide an extra layer of protection to passwords, or replace passwords all together. The ring could also be applied directly to a touchscreen to transmit password data faster or send more data for a stronger password. The researchers behind the project hope to commercialize the ring within the next two years.
In a white paper for the project, the researchers discuss the goal of the ring:
As we increasingly rely on a variety of [mobile] devices, we tend to quickly switch between them and temporarily share them with others. We may let our children play games on our smartphones or share a tablet with colleagues or family members. Sometimes a device may be used by several persons simultaneously, as when playing a multi-player game on a tablet, and occasionally, a device might fall into the hands of strangers. In all these situations, it would be of great beneﬁt for the device to know who is interacting with it and occasionally to authenticate the user.
We may want to limit access to age-appropriate games and media for our children or prevent them from charging our credit card. We desire to hide sensitive personal information from strangers, colleagues, or perhaps even an curious spouse. Or, we may simply want to enjoy an enhanced user experience from the multi-player game that can tell who touched the screen… The key idea is to exploit the pervasive capacitive touch screen and touchpad input devices as receivers for an identiﬁcation code transmitted by a hardware identiﬁcation token.
Rings, the new must-have technology accessory? Earlier this year, we saw a ring that replaced the need to swipe an Oyster Card to ride the London Tube.