Can your breath allow your phone to identify you?

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Facial recognition and fingerprint verification are becoming general security features on our phones, and now your breath could be a potential biometric security option, according to a report published in Chemical communications.

Researchers at Kyushu University’s Institute of Chemistry and Materials Engineering worked with the University of Tokyo to develop an olfactory (smell) sensor that can identify a person by analyzing their breath, the report said.

“Recently, human scent has emerged as a new class of biometric authentication that essentially uses your unique chemical makeup to confirm who you are,” said study author Chayanut Jirayupat in a press release.

Bangkok, Thailand - December 12, 2015: Apple iPhone5s is held in one hand showing a screen to enter a passcode.  Researchers at Kyushu University's Institute of Chemistry and Materials Engineering, who worked with the University of Tokyo, have developed an olfactory sensor (smell) that can identify a person by analyzing their breath, the report said.

Bangkok, Thailand – December 12, 2015: Apple iPhone5s is held in one hand showing a screen to enter a passcode. Researchers at Kyushu University’s Institute of Chemistry and Materials Engineering, who worked with the University of Tokyo, have developed an olfactory sensor (smell) that can identify a person by analyzing their breath, the report said.
(iStock)

“artificial nose” with 16-channel sensor This was confirmed by up to 20 people with an average accuracy of 97.8%, the report said.

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The researchers noted that current technologies are based on biometric authentication, which is usually carried out using voice, fingerprints, handprints and faces. In some cases, ear acoustics and finger veins are used to protect a person’s assets, the authors of the study said in a report.

“These methods are based on the physical uniqueness of each person, but they are not reliable. Physical characteristics can be copied or even compromised through injury,” Jirayupat said in a press release, and is one of the reasons the team looked at other biometric authentication measures. . . .

The researchers noted that current technologies are based on biometric authentication, which is usually carried out using voice, fingerprints, handprints and faces.  In some cases, ear acoustics and finger veins are used to protect a person's assets, the authors of the study said in a report.

The researchers noted that current technologies are based on biometric authentication, which is usually carried out using voice, fingerprints, handprints and faces. In some cases, ear acoustics and finger veins are used to protect a person’s assets, the authors of the study said in a report.
(iStock)

investigators studied gas compounds produced by human skin, but said it is limited because the skin does not produce enough compounds for machines to detect. This prompted the team to investigate whether human breathing could be a viable option.

“The concentration of volatile compounds in the skin can be as low as a few parts per billion or trillion, while the compounds exhaled during breathing can reach several parts per million,” Jirayupat explained in a press release. The author of the study also said in the report that a person’s breath is currently being used to determine if a person has certain diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and even COVID-19.

Researchers have developed an olfactory sensor that can identify a specific range of compounds. They analyzed the participants’ breath and determined that the 28 compounds in human breath could be used for biometric authentication. The sensor data was fed through a machine learning system that analyzed the composition of each subject’s breath and developed a profile to identify the person, the report said.

Brett Case, PhD, sterilizes his suit with a disinfectant spray before working on the virus that causes COVID-19.  Researchers have developed an olfactory sensor that can identify a specific range of compounds.  They analyzed the participants' breath and determined that the 28 compounds in human breath could be used for biometric authentication.

Brett Case, PhD, sterilizes his suit with a disinfectant spray before working on the virus that causes COVID-19. Researchers have developed an olfactory sensor that can identify a specific range of compounds. They analyzed the participants’ breath and determined that the 28 compounds in human breath could be used for biometric authentication.
(Matt Miller/Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis)

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the group tested the breath patterns from six people, and then a large sample of 20 subjects.

The results consistently showed that they could identify a person with an average accuracy of just under 98% in both sample groups.

“It was a diverse group of people of different ages, genders and nationalities. This high accuracy across the board is encouraging,” study leader Takeshi Yanagida said in a press release.

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In this study, subjects fasted six hours prior to testing. Yanagida said in the release: “The next step is to refine this technique so that it works regardless of diet. Fortunately, our current research has shown that adding more sensors and collecting more data can overcome this hurdle.”

However, do not hold your breath if you are waiting for this option on the next smartphone – study authors said more work is required before it arrives on your device.