The technology powering the devices potentially could identify the user’s walking style, for example. Officials would be alerted if the gait does not match the authorized user’s walk – a red flag the phone might have fallen into the wrong hands, officials said.
The “secret sauce” of the mobile device is a so-called neuromorphic computer chip that simulates human learning, Vincent Sritapan, the program manager for DHS’ mobile device security program, told Nextgov.
Gait recognition — driven by the phone’s accelerometer, GPS and the chip — is but one of many kinds of continuous ID verification intended to tighten access controls on mobile devices.
Boeing and HRL Laboratories, a software firm jointly owned by Boeing and General Motors, are partnering under a DHS project worth $2.2 million over 2.5 years.
The companies “pretty much are leveraging user behavior information” from data gathered by sensors found on any standard consumer smartphone, Sritapan said. Those feelers could include microphones, cameras and touchpads, he added. The artificial intelligence could help agencies determine, “Are you who you say you are, and do we give you access to enterprise resources like email?” he said.
Homeland Security chose the Boeing Black for experimentation, because the company was willing to embed the chip into its device, Sritapan said.
“I would call this a high-risk, high-reward type of project,” he added. “If successful, this technology can go into any device the manufacturers are willing to integrate it with” and would meet military, DHS and other federal agency information security specifications.
Referring to the Black as “the test body,” he said the government purchased the brand for “specific uses,” such as secure voice calls.
Smartphone as Test Tube
It remains to be seen whether DHS itself will buy brain chip-embedded Blacks for operations in the field. If the chip is successful at the end of a 2-year research and development period, DHS and Boeing will share the cost of a 6-month pilot program, Sritapan said.
State Department staffers apparently plan to or are currently using the Black.