A link with ink: digital tattoo unlocks Moto X

  • AFP
  • Updated: Jun 28, 2014 10:48 IST

If you're frustrated with having to remember and enter a passcode every time you use your phone but don't want to disable the feature for fear of loss or theft, how about a tattoo instead?

A company called VivaLnk has just launched its first set of digital tattoos that, when applied to the skin, will automatically unlock the Moto X.

The self-adhesive circular designs use Near Field Communication to talk to a smartphone and authenticate the wearer and have been designed, with the help of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (formerly part of Motorola), to withstand five days of showers and workouts before they need to be replaced.

As well as being an interesting take on the idea of wearable technology, the digital tattoos, which cost $9.99 for a pack of 10, could also signal the shape of security things to come.

The idea might seem like a fad or a gimmick aimed at Millennials, but developing easy-to-use, robust alternatives to the password, PIN number or passcode is a major focus of the tech industry and one that Motorola in particular has been perusing to some extraordinary lengths, having first touted the idea of passwords stored in pills or in tattoos at the D11 conference last May.

"After 40 years of advances in computation, we're still authenticating the same way we did years ago," said Regina Dugan, the head of Motorola's Special Projects division. "In fact, it's gotten worse, because you don't do it once a day or twice a day, users are doing them 39 times a day and it takes them 2.3 seconds every time they do it; power users do it up to 100 times a day. We're thinking of a whole variety of options for how you could do better at authentication. You can start with nearer-term things like tokens or fobs that might have NFC or Bluetooth embedded in them, or you can also think about a means of authentication that you could simply wear on your skin every day -- like an electronic tattoo."

A year later, what might have sounded like science fiction to some is now a consumer reality, for Moto X owners at least. VivaLnk says that it is working on extending its digital tattoo range to work with other handsets and is also considering creating tattoos with different types of design.

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