Working with Business

User ID for Touch Screen Devices

User ID for Touch Screen Devices

Quote: KT149297-W

The Challenge

Touchscreen devices are being adopted in an increasingly wide range of settings including commerce, education and healthcare. When more than one user is interacting with such a device, there is no direct way for the device to identify the user associated with each touch. In many settings it is useful, or even necessary for security reasons, to be able to identify the user responsible for any given interaction.

The Solution

Computer scientists at Newcastle University have developed a solution that uses wrist-worn accelerometers to allow for user identification for touchscreen devices. Acceleration data from all users interacting with the device is compared with the calculated acceleration from touch data as reported by the touchscreen. By identifying the accelerometer data with the highest correlation with the calculated acceleration from the touchscreen, it is possible to identify the user who performed the touch gesture.

The approach is independent of the technology used for the touchscreen device, does not require special set-up, utilises relatively low-cost sensor technology, does not require assumptions to be made about relative locations of users around the device and can remove the need to remember passwords (which in themselves can be problematic as they need to be kept secret in order to preserve security and yet need to be memorable).

The Opportunity

User identification is relevant to a variety of applications for touchscreen and other computer devices, both in the context of enhancing the applications available via those devices and controlling access to devices.

Non-security applications – touchscreen technology is available in a variety of forms including tablet computers, smartphones, digital table tops, game consoles and PCs. In areas such as education, where the British Educational Suppliers Association has predicted that all UK school pupils will have access to a tablet computer by 2020, the invention has the potential to enhance teacher management of classrooms where pupils are using touchscreen devices in a variety of ways. There may also be applications in the administering of assessments.

Authentication for security purposes – device mobility and the rapidly growing ‘Bring Your Own Device’ trend are increasing the range and complexity of the access issues faced by organisations, especially for large employers and those where regulatory factors and data security requirements make data security critically important. Authentication is a process or procedure that allows a system to identify an individual or other system. Authentication through combining the use of a challenge response approach along with correlating touch and sensor data represents a new approach.

With no need for pairing devices or additional ancillary equipment and given the dramatic growth predicted in wearable technology devices, this is a neat and timely solution to an existing problem.

The invention is available for co-development and/or license.

Intellectual Property

The technology is protected through a UK patent application which has been filed and is currently being examined.

Title: Identifying a user applying a touch or proximity input
UK patent application no: PCT/GB1319778.5
Filing Date: 20 December 2013
Applicant: University of Newcastle upon Tyne


Sheena Shields, Science, Agriculture & Engineering Enterprise Team, Research and Enterprise Services, Devonshire Building, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK