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Using your gait to power and secure devices

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Researchers from CSIRO’s Data61 have developed new technology which uses the way a person walks to power wearable devices. It could also be used as a new authentication method that could replace passwords, pins and fingerprints.

Researchers developed a portable wearable device to capture how an individual’s unique energy generation pattern can be used as a form of authentication by combining gait recognition with a technique called kinetic energy harvesting (KEH). KEH translates a person’s motion into electrical energy and improves battery life.

Previously, small sensors called accelerometers were used to capture an individual’s gait in terms of motion and velocity but this reduced the battery life of wearable devices and prevented gait authentication from becoming more widely adopted.

“By applying both techniques we have developed a way to achieve two goals at once – powering devices and the ability to verify a person’s identity using a wearable device by capturing the energy generated from the way they walk,” said CSIRO Data61 researcher Sara Khalifa.

The researchers conducted a trial on 20 users to test how secure KEH gain authentication is, with data collected from each user using two different settings from various environments. Users walked in several environments including indoor on carpet, outdoor on grass and asphalt terrains to capture the natural gait changes over time and surfaces.

The trial showed that KEH-gait can achieve an authentication accuracy of 95% and reduce energy consumption by 78% compared to conventional accelerometer-based authentication techniques.

The KEH-Gait system was also tested against ‘attackers’ who attempted to imitate an individual’s motions and the analysis found only 13 out of 100 imposter trials were wrongfully accepted by the system as genuine trials.

CSIRO Data61 group leader of Networks Research Group Professor Dali Kafaar said this shows there are a number of benefits to the KEH-gait approach compared to passwords, pins, signatures and finger prints.

“Firstly, it is convenient because as we walk around each day our gait can be sampled continuously and verified without us having to manually adjust anything. Secondly, it’s more secure than passwords because the way we walk is difficult to mimic. Since the KEH-gait keeps authenticating the user continuously, it collects a significant amount of information about our movements, making it difficult to imitate or hack unlike guessing passwords or pin codes,” said Dali.

As the wearable devices market continues to expand, wearable technology presents an opportunity to explore new authentication methods based on user’s movements.

About Adelle King

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