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Chemist suggests sweat analysis for biometric authentication


A concept paper published in ChemPhysChem proposes a new biometrics-based authentication approach for unlocking mobile and wearable devices that relies on analyzing skin secretions, or sweat, to build an amino acid profile that is unique to the device’s owner, according to a report in Phys.org.

Skin secretions contain many small molecules that can each be targeted for authentication analysis. The profile would be stored within the device and used for identification purposes each time an attempt to unlock is made.

The author, Jan Halámek, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University at Albany, explains that they “… are developing a new form of security that could completely change the authentication process for electronic devices. Using sweat as an identifier cannot be easily mimicked/hacked by potential intruders. It’s close to full-proof.”

A profile would be developed during an intial monitoring period where the device would continuously measure its owner’s sweat levels throughout the day. Factors such as age, biological sex, race and physiological state of the individual would also play a role. Once the profile is developed, the owner would be identified once holding the device/wearing it.

This approach to authentication could help people who may be unable to move their fingers in a specific position to open the device or have a caretaker who is unlocking their device without permission.

Halámek says he has tested the analysis in his lab with success and is now looking to collaborate with an engineer to help with implementation.

Co-authors on the paper are Vladimir Privman, a professor at Clarkson University, and University of Albany graduate student Juliana Agudelo.

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