It seems like something out of a James Bond movie – a mobile phone that can self-destruct if it falls into the hands of someone who walks or talks differently than the intended owner. And, while self-destructing phones already exist, phones with self-destructing “brains” do not.
Specifically, Boeing and HRL Laboratories, a software firm jointly owned by General Motors and Boeing, are working with the United States Department of Homeland Security to develop and test a mobile phone’s self-destruct “brain.” The companies will work on the project for over 2 ½ years with a budget of about $2.2 million.
According to Vincent Sritapan, the program manager from Homeland Security’s mobile device security program, described the project in a recent interview with Nextgov.com. Basically, the team will use the Boeing Black phone for experimentation with the brain chip – a so-called neuromorphic computer chip that can simulate human learning.
The MIT Technology Review describes the functionality of neuromorphic chips as follows: “Like the neurons in your own brain, those on [a brain chip] adjust their synaptic connections when exposed to new data. In other words, the chip learns through experience.”
The chip could recognize a user’s walking style, and if the gait does not match up with the authorized user’s known walking style, officials would be alerted. This type of gait recognition is “learned” using the phone’s GPS, the accelerometer and the brain chip. The chip would also utilize information recorded on the phone’s standard features such as microphones, touchpads and cameras. Sritapan pointed out that all of these features working together will be more apt to answer the question, “Are you who you say you are, and do we give you access to enterprise resources like email?” If not, the phone will completely erase itself.
Sritapan further noted that, “I would call this a high-risk, high-reward type of project. If successful, this technology can go into any device the manufacturers are willing to integrate it with” and would meet the security specifications of a number of federal agencies.
As of now, United States State Department workers currently use, or are planning to use, the Boeing Black for their enhanced security features.