Your headphones could soon be used to unlock your phone

10 Mar 2016

Using the power of biometrics, a new headphones concept currently being designed by NEC, would allow for the ear buds of your headphones to read your ear canals and determine whether you are the owner of the phone, or other gadget.

As many flagship phone owners already know, there is more than one way to unlock your phone these days, largely thanks to the availability of biometric sensors on phones, most notably the fingerprint scanner.

Now, however, NEC says that it’s looking beyond what’s on your fingertip or in your eye, and is going to tap into your head through your ear canal.

According to the BBC, the ear buds would look almost identical to the ones that already exist on the market, but the Japanese company’s concept comes with an in-built microphone.

When placed into the ear canal, the earbud will emit a short audio burst that bounces around the ear canal, which is then picked up once again by the ear buds.

NEC ear buds

As every person’s ears are unique, just like a fingerprint, NEC says that this method would allow for a secure method of verification, as well as being reliable more than 99pc of the time.

A safe and secure method of biometric verification has once again been questioned among the major phone manufacturers after a demonstration at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in February showed that many fingerprint sensors could be fooled by a fingerprint cast in clay.

With plans to have such a product available before the end of 2018, NEC’s Shigeki Yamagata said of the concept: “It enables a natural way of conducting continuous authentication, even during movement and while performing work, simply by wearing an earphone with a built-in microphone to listen to the sounds within ears.”

Woman using headphones image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic