The general strategy for safely maintaining several accounts is never to use the same password. Most of us have so many different accounts nowadays — email, bank accounts, productivity apps, games, and so on — that it becomes too difficult to remember them all, and creating a password keychain and backing it up can be a hassle. Also, typing out logins and passwords through two or more levels of security, though quick, is a pain. If you could have your accounts recognize you without having to enter any kind of information, would you be interested? Motorola, doing the best impression of a rockstar that it can, wants us all to get tattoos and take pills instead of type out passwords.
At the All Things D conference, Regina Duncan — formerly of DARPA, currently head of Motorola special projects — mentionedtwo projects her division is developing. The first, an electronic tattoo, is used in place of a password. Duncan was wearing a model on her forearm (seen below), and it comes equipped with sensors and antennas that can recognize, for instance, your smartphone. So, rather than mistype a tedious password every time you want to download a new app, you can instead just wear a little barcode tattoo. For those of you that have been mulling over tattoo ideas for years and still haven’t been able to pull the inky trigger, it seems like Duncan’s tattoo is more of a sticker.
Another project on which the team is working follows in a similar fashion, but edges into dystopian future territory. Instead of type in a password or wear a tattoo-like device, Motorola is developing an authentication pill for you to swallow. The pill hides a little chip and switch inside, and is powered by the electrolytes in your stomach, which creates an 18-bit signal. Duncan’s view is that we swallow vitamins or medicine every single day, so there’s no reason we couldn’t swallow one for authentication purposes.
Wearing an unobtrusive tattoo is certainly more convenient than swallowing a pill every morning before you check your phone for text messages, but if the pill could be swallowed once and never again rather than every day, that might make it more appealing. Although, swallowing a chip so you can answer your phone is certainly creepy. Duncan noted that the technology isn’t anywhere near consumer release, and Google (which owns Motorola) isn’t going to make authentication tattoos or pills a requirement for its devices, thankfully.
Then again, never having to mistype login information (then getting locked out of the account for a few hours!) for the rest of our lives does seem appealing.