Authentication by heartbeat: The next step in biometrics?

January 08, 2019 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
B-Secure, a company based in Belfast (Northern Ireland) with significant background in the area of electrocardiogram technology, has interesting plans to apply its technology to the automotive sector: By measuring and processing the driver's cardiac activity could be used to generate a unique, distinctive identifier for every single person which in turn could be used to perform an authentication for certain digital services. In addition, heart monitoring would of course allow statements to be made about the driver's state of health.

B-Secur has developed a set of EKG authentication and wellness algorithms, called HeartKey, and introduced them at the current Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Built on the premise that an individual’s cardiac rhythm is completely unique just like their fingerprints or iris, HeartKey identifies and authenticates users by measuring specific points in their heartbeat. The algorithms bundled in HeartKey “offer a very high degree of security”, promised B-Secure CEO Alan Foreman.

To apply the technology in the car, it would only be necessary to equip the steering wheel with one or two sensors at places where drivers typically place their hands. Thus, the technology is not suited to secure the physical access to the vehicle, but instead to digital services inside the car. For example, the user could unlock a mobile phone account or a chargeable audio stream in this way. This type of authentication could also be interesting for commercial vehicle rental companies, explained Foreman. The authentication process would take only a few seconds, he said.

Beyond authentication, HeartKey will be able to monitor driver stress, alertness and cardiac conditions. Thus, it would be possible to constantly assess and monitor the muscular and electrical state of the driver’s heart. The algorithms can detect potentially dangerous changes in heart rate and rhythm, stress levels, fatigue, respiration and atrial fibrillation; if necessary, the software can issue an alert.


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