Voice, Facial And Fingerprint Recognition Will Soon Unlock Smartphones


Passwords. They’ve become a necessary bane to our modern existence as new technologies constantly increase the series of phrases and codes we must remember to access devices and accounts. A 2007 Microsoft study found the average person used 6.5 different passwords for 25 sites, and that number could only have increased in the years since.

New technology may soon decrease and eventually eliminate the need for passwords, however. New security methods, such as fingerprint, voice and facial-recognition software, are now replacing passwords, which are now seen as an outdated security risk vulnerable to hackers. Smartphones are among the first devices utilizing the new technology.

Handsets running Google-owned Android OS already offer voice-recognition and some, including the Samsung Galaxy 3, even include facial-recognition capabilities. Google is also said to be investigating iris scanners, behavioral biometrics and heartbeat readings.

Meanwhile, Apple is expected to release fingerprint-recognition security with its next iPhone version this summer. Users would be able to unlock the phone by pressing a finger onto the handset. The technology could later be adopted by banks and email service providers. Michael Barratt, head of at Pay Pal, sees the next generation of security innovations starting with smartphones.

It’s a case of looking beyond passwords and the best alternatives are provided by smartphones,” Barratt said. “The general view is that Apple will launch a fingerprint-enabled iPhone before the end of the year. The Android handset market intends to stay competitive so it’s highly likely there will be fingerprint and voice identification-enabled devices from them too in the near future.

Still, some experts, such as HID Global strategic solutions director Philip Hoyer, say methods such as voice recognition have their limitations. A user in a bar, for example, may find his or her voice is cannot be recognized amidst background noise. Instead, Hoyer—whose firm manufactures security identity technology—recommends multiple methods be available for verification

If you’re trying to access your account in a noisy bar, instead of using voice recognition, you could switch to facial recognition using the phone’s video camera,” Hoyer said.

And while biometric security may seem infallible, it can certainly be hacked. While facial recognition, for example, can’t be cracked in the same way a password can, it can be circumvented by holding a quality headshot photo in front of the phone. Samsung recognized the glitch in its Galaxy S3 and says the feature has been improved in its Galaxy S4 device, which was released in New York earlier this month.

Fingerprint scanning, on the other hand, can’t be duplicated with a mere photograph. Not only is it extremely tight in terms of security, but it can easily be extended beyond the initial unlocking of a device. If the smartphone OS can store credentials and passwords that are then accessed via the fingerprint, the scan can be extended to a secure method of accessing apps and other sensitive information from the device.

We’d like your smartphone or smartcard-embedded finger ring to authorize a new computer via a tap on the computer, even in situations in which your phone might be without cellular connectivity,” wrote Eric Grosse, Google’s vice president of security, and engineer Mayank Upadhyay, in a paper outlining Google’s plans for an ID rink or smartphone chip that could ultimately replace online passwords.