Tech Innovation

Cardiac Scan: Biometric Technology That Uses Your Heart as a Password

“Cardiac Scan” is a radar-based system that can identify the exact shape of a heart. It raises the bar when it comes to user authentication.

From vein scanning and brainprints right through to body odor identification, the use of biometric data is undoubtedly the big trend in the field of user identification. And now, a team from the University at Buffalo is taking the technology a step further. The researchers have developed a system that analyzes the size and shape of a person’s heart and uses the data to unlock their smartphone or log them into a computer.

This Cardiac Scan is intended to make the authentication process significantly more secure, as the scientists have demonstrated in a recent study. “No two people with identical hearts have ever been found,” explains Wenyao Xu, the lead author on the study. “And people’s hearts do not change shape, unless they suffer from serious heart disease,” Xu adds.

Continuous Authentication

The technology uses a continuous wave radar that can measure a heart from up to 30 meters away and doesn’t require any physical contact to function. For the initial scan, the system still currently needs approximately eight seconds to identify an organ accurately. Afterward, re-authentication takes place on a continuous basis, ensuring that the device is being used by the correct person at all times.

Every heart has unique properties.
Every heart has unique properties. Image: Wikipedia – Brian Brandenburg (CC BY-SA 3.0) – (Montage)

This means that the level of security offered by the system is significantly higher compared to previous methods, says Xu, since a process whereby the user only has to log in once is much easier to hack than a continuous authentication process. In the pilot study, in which 78 people took part, the Cardiac Scan’s identity verification system correctly identified the user in almost 99% of cases.

Cardiac Scan Poses Zero Health Risks

Users of the Cardiac Scan system don’t have to worry about any health risks. “The signal is considerably weaker than the radio waves emitted by a Wi-Fi network, for example,” says the scientist. At around five milliwatts, the device is said to emit less than one percent of the radiation produced by a conventional smartphone.

Researchers expect that the Cardiac Scan will soon be implemented in all end devices.
Researchers expect that the Cardiac Scan will soon be implemented in all end devices.

For the researchers, the next step is to reduce the size of their invention, since this is the only way to incorporate it into laptops, smartphones, and computer keyboards. Xu and his team have set themselves the ambitious goal of integrating the technology into all end devices in the future, as they believe data protection is every user’s top priority. The authors will present the results of their study at the upcoming Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Communication (MobiCom) in Utah.

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