The US Department of Homeland Security is working with Boeing to develop continuous biometric authentication chips for government-use smartphones, according to a Nextgov article by Aliya Sternstein. The main idea is to have a smartphone that will wipe its own memory if it has fallen into the hands of an unauthorized user.
For now, the secretive project seems to be relying on machine learning and gait recognition for its continuous authentication chip, which has been embedded in Boeing Black smartphones for the purpose of experimentation. The “neuromorphic” chip uses the smartphone sensors to learn about an authorized user’s gait patterns, with the project researchers also reportedly leveraging other user information for continuous authentication, though it isn’t currently clear what other specific modalities are being used.
It’s a huge project, valued at $2.2 million dollars and with a 2.5-year timeframe. Boeing is collaborating both with the DHS and with a subsidiary that it co-owns with GM, called HRL Laboratories. Interestingly, Sternstein points to hints that Canada’s Blackberry may also be involved, with that company having announced last year that it would “provide software services for Black”; and this month that company bought Good Technology, developer of a multi-factor Trusted Authentication Framework platform and an Enterprise Mobility Management platform using Trustonic’s Tested Execution Environment technology – sophisticated mobile security software, in other words.
While the DHS is certainly no stranger to biometric technology, this appears to be the first time it has sought to develop its own customized mobile device implementing such technology. If the ambitions of this project are realized, the new resulting chip could prove highly useful in DHS field deployments and elsewhere in the US government.