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Real-world testing suggests gait ID could boost smartphone security

Real-world testing suggests ga...
A smartphone user's unique walking gait could be utilized as another form of biometric identity authentication
A smartphone user's unique walking gait could be utilized as another form of biometric identity authentication
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A smartphone user's unique walking gait could be utilized as another form of biometric identity authentication
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A smartphone user's unique walking gait could be utilized as another form of biometric identity authentication

If someone steals your smartphone, the harder it is for them to unlock it, the better. New research shows how gait analysis could provide an added layer of security, by authenticating a user's identity based on the way they walk.

In the recent study – which was led by Britain's University of Plymouth – 44 participants between 18 and 56 years of age were tasked with carrying a widely-available smartphone in a belt pouch for seven to 10 days. While they went about their regular routines, that phone's gyroscope and accelerometer measured and recorded their distinctive walking movements.

Each person performed about 4,000 walking activities over the testing period, although those activities were grouped into just three main categories: normal walking, fast walking, and climbing/descending stairs.

Once a gait "signature" had been established for each test subject, the scientists set about trying to identify which person was which, based solely on those signatures. On average, they were about 85 percent accurate at doing so, although that number rose to 90 percent when the stair category wasn't included.

More specifically, there was an error rate of 11.38 percent for normal walking, 11.32 percent for fast walking, 24.52 percent for climbing stairs, and 27.33 percent for descending stairs. And while those numbers obviously aren't perfect, the researchers believe that they could be improved significantly once the gait authentication system is developed further. That said, the technology will likely just compliment other identification methods, not replace them.

"Gait recognition alone will not be the answer to usable and convenient authentication, however it could form a critically important tool within the cyber arsenal that could contribute towards creating a stronger awareness of a user’s identity," says Prof. Nathan Clarke. "This study demonstrates, for the first time outside of laboratory-controlled conditions, what level of performance can be achieved realistically."

A paper on the study was recently published in the journal Computers & Security.

Source: University of Plymouth

3 comments
3 comments
TechGazer
Just think of all the complaints because people can't access their phones because of different shoes, stepping on bubblegum, foot/leg injury or some other medical problem, or all the other factors that affect gait. Will the probability of protecting your phone's data multiplied by the probability of someone stealing your phone and trying to access it be higher than the probability of being unable to access your own phone?
Daishi
@TechGazer they hint at this in the article saying it would be complementary to existing methods rather than replacing. One example use I could think of is if you unlock your phone once the next time you need it it could stay unlocked if it thinks it's still you. The downside is if a police officer or partner or something wants to look through your phone it would be unlocked when they grab it as long as they don't walk away with it first.
paul314
Something like this needs well under 1% false rejections to be acceptable. (Also, what happen when you're out hiking and sprain your ankle -- do you watch the phone count down to full data wipe as you try to call for help? (I could see a phone that automatically opens up when you take it out of your pocket as long as it recognizes you've been walking, but requires full unlock if someone else walks away with it, but even that has difficult edge cases. ) This seems like a solution in search of a problem -- when are you going to have your normal gait but not your fingers or your face? Gait recognition used to be the coming technology for recognizing evildoers, so maybe there's some other application lurking just around the corner.