No fingerprint sensor required: SilentSense knows it’s you from your taps and swipes

Touch ID

Move over, Touch ID. Apple’s new fingerprint sensing technology in the iPhone 5s may soon be joined by an alternative method for recognizing your touch – no fingerprint sensor required. New Scientist has a report on SilentSense, an algorithm that uses your smartphone’s built-in sensors to quickly learn your taps and swipes to determine whether it’s you that’s using your phone.

SilentSense is currently being developed at the Illinois Institute of Technology. It uses your phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to measure how much the screen moves when you touch it. It also records the pressure and duration of your touch, as well as the size of your fingertips, to identify you as a unique user. The most obvious application for this is security – you’d be able to set your phone to lock out anyone other than yourself from using it.

According to an initial study of 100 users, SilentSense was able to correctly identify a phone’s owner in 10 taps or less with 99 percent accuracy. But even at with just an average of 2.3 taps the software was 98 percent accurate.

There are still plenty of questions to answer before SilentSense is ready for the real world. If it is always running, what kind of effect will that have on battery life? Right now the software is programmed to stop checking user identity while games are being played. But for most people that probably only accounts for a short period of phone use. And this doesn’t do away with the need for pattern or code to unlock your phone, or drop the need for traditional passwords like Apple’s Touch ID does.

Still, this is an interesting way to bring increased security to mobile devices that lack a fingerprint sensor. It’ll be interesting to see if all of the questions get answered and this technology can make it to the market.

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