Self-powered smart keyboard can identify computer users by typing pattern

Self-powered smart keyboard can identify computer users by typing pattern

Passwords continue to be a glaring weakness in digital security. And while biometric alternatives, such as fingerprint readers, are finding their way onto more consumer electronics devices, they are not without their limitations either. So what about tightening the security screw further by applying a continuous biometric — such as a keyboard that knows who’s typing on it in real-time and could lock out an intruder based on sensing unfamiliar keystrokes? 

Scientists have developed a self-cleaning, self-powered smart keyboard that can identify computer users by the way they type. The device can help prevent unauthorized users from gaining direct access to computers, said Zhong Lin Wang of the Georgia Institute of Technology. It can potentially replace passwords, biometrics, and other incomplete security methods we use today to secure our computer systems.

The smart keyboard can sense typing patterns - including the pressure applied to keys and speed - that can accurately distinguish one individual user from another. So even if someone knows your password, he or she cannot access your computer because that person types in a different way than you would.

It also can harness the energy generated from typing to either power itself or another small device. "The keyboard could provide an additional layer of protection to boost the security of our computer systems," Wang said. According to him, password protection is one of the most common ways we control who can log onto our computers - and see the private information we entrust to them.

But as many recent high-profile stories about hacking and fraud have demonstrated, passwords are themselves vulnerable to theft. This keyboard is a more secure and still cost-effective and user-friendly approach to safeguarding what's on our computers, the authors concluded.

Arguably better than the security aspects of the keyboard are its other benefits. For one thing, it harnesses the energy generated from typing to power itself or other small devices. For another, it is coated with a dirt-repellent coating, which means the keyboard cleans itself by repelling dirt and other grime. The bad news is that, for now at least, it’s still in prototype form—but should research continue to progress nicely, there’s every chance we could eventually see this up for sale.

The paper was detailed in the journal ACS Nano.

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