Mobile devices that identify owners by their walk

October 17, 2005

Brussels, 14 Oct 2005

A new, consumer-friendly technology that provides security for mobile devices has been developed in Finland. This innovative approach to user recognition makes it possible to identify the owner of a device based on the gait of her or his walk. The technology could be adapted in the future to secure credit card payments.

The new technology, developed by VTT, Technical Research Centre of Finland, prevents the unauthorised use of mobile devices (such as laptops, PDAs or mobile phones) by rendering them non-usable in the wrong hands. The device is equipped with sensors that measure certain characteristics of the user's walk. When the device is used for the first time, these measurements are saved in its memory. In normal use, the device continuously measures the user's gait and compares these measurements with the values in its memory. If they are sufficiently identical, the device identifies and approves the user. If the values differ, additional checks, like standard password-based identification, are available. The method is unobtrusive, and no special action is needed, just walking, so the user is in control.

The use of mobile devices such as phones, laptops and even smart cards is increasing rapidly. The number of mobile phones is expected to reach 2 billion worldwide by 2006, while in the EU 25 there were 229 million mobile subscriptions in 2003. In parallel, incidents of theft or loss of mobile devices has surged; figures suggest that over 700 000 cell phone thefts occur annually in the UK, with 190 000 in Spain, and over 150 000 in the Netherlands. Besides the actual value of the device itself, the damage extends to personal and contact data losses and the possibility of illegal monetary transactions.

The new identification system offers improved security and less risk in situations where a portable device ends up in the wrong hands due to loss or theft: the identity of a mobile phone user needs to be proved before the phone can be used for banking transactions, for example, and the device will become non-usable in the wrong hands. The method is quite simple compared with passwords or traditional bioidentification: the identity is confirmed as a background process without any need for user's intervention.

Gait-based identification is based on advanced computation, where the measured signals are first filtered and then certain parameters, the so-called 'gaitcode', are calculated. In initial tests the identification rate was over 90 percent. VTT has started IPR protection process for the invention. This new recognition technology could be extended to many applications, from mobile devices to suitcases or guns.
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CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
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