DHS-funded Boeing project developing chip for self destructing biometric smartphones

September 28, 2015 - 

Boeing and HRL Laboratories, a software firm jointly owned by Boeing and General Motors, are partnering to develop a biometrics-integrated “brain chip” for its self-destructing Black smartphone that could be embedded into any device, according to a report by DefenseOne.com.

The Department of Homeland Security is funding the project, which is valued at $2.2 million over 2.5 years.

The self-learning neuromorphic computer chip can employ several kinds of continuous ID verification methods, such as gait recognition, to improve access controls on mobile devices, according to Vincent Sritapan, program manager for DHS’ mobile device security program.

Gait recognition — driven by the device’s accelerometer, GPS and the chip — is designed to identify the user’s walking style.

In the event that the gait does not match the authorized user’s walk, the chip would alert DHS officials that the device may have been stolen.

Sritapan said that companies “pretty much are leveraging user behavior information” from the data collected by sensors embedded on most consumer smartphone, adding that this kind of artificial intelligence could help agencies determine the authorized user of the device.

DHS decided to test out the computer chip on the Boeing Black — a device that completely erases its hard drive if it detects human or technical meddling — because the company agreed to integrate the chip into its device.

“I would call this a high-risk, high-reward type of project,” Sritapan said. “If successful, this technology can go into any device the manufacturers are willing to integrate it with” and would meet military, DHS and other federal agency information security specifications.

Sritapan called the Black device the chip’s “test body,” and pointed out the government purchased it for “specific uses,” such as enabling secure voice calls.

If the research and development process for the computer chip is helmed a success at the end of its two-year period, DHS and Boeing will split the cost of implementing a six-month pilot program, Sritapan said.

Meanwhile, state department employees plan to use the Black, while some of them are already using the device.

“Boeing’s team will provide a two-consecutive day Discovery Workshop that includes a Boeing Black product overview, technical deep dives and a security requirements analysis,” department officials said in a solicitation for a Boeing Black Secure Voice Workshop.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.