Ideas

Brainiac

Innovation of the Week: Like fingerprints, but in your chest

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What is it? Cardiac-scan authentication

Innovators: Researchers from the University at Buffalo and Texas Tech University

What were they thinking? Advances in biometrics are driven by novelty and the never-ending quest to stay ahead of the hackers. First, there was fingerprint identification and retinal scanning. Apple recently introduced facial-recognition software to unlock your phone. And now, a University at Buffalo-led team of researchers has gone one step further — developing a computer security system that uses a low-level Doppler radar to monitor the unique size and shape of your heart.

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Does it work? The hope is that cardiac identification will be more secure than other biometrics; a group of German hackers called the Chaos Computer Club tricked Samsung’s Galaxy 8 iris-recognition feature just a month after the phone’s release. “Cardiac scan measures the live cardiac motion, which depends on the cardiac muscle structure of the user, and therefore is impossible to completely mimic,” the researchers write, in a new paper. Still, they acknowledge, hackers could just target a database storing heart patterns or build another heart-monitoring device — and snatch the data directly from our chests.

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