Motorola’s forthcoming phones could use electronic tattoos or pills to identify users, it has been announced.
The technology, which aims to remove the need to enter passwords and replace them simply with a phone being close to a user’s body, was one of the suggestions Dennis Woodside, Motorola’s chief executive, California’s D11 conference yesterday.
The tattoos have been developed by Massachusetts-based engineering firm MC10, and contain flexible electronic circuits that are attached to the wearer’s skin using a rubber stamp.
Nokia has previously experimented with integrating tattoos into mobile phones, and Motorola’s senior vice president of advance research, Regina Dugan, a former head of the US Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, demonstrated the silicon-based technology that uses bendable electronic circuits. Initially designed for medical purposes, Motorola hopes the ‘Biostamps’ could now be used for consumer authentication purposes.
Motorola is also investigating the Proteus Digital Health pill, which has already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and was given European regulatory approval in 2010. Its computer chip is powered by a battery using the acid in a user’s stomach.
The pill creates a unique signal like an ECG trace that can be picked up by devices outside the body and which could be used to verify a user’s identity. It can be taken daily for up to a month, it has been claimed.
Woodside admitted that such experimental ideas were not going to be on sale soon. But he claimed Motorola had “tested it authenticating a phone, and it works.’
The former Google employee, however, who was parachuted in to Motorola after its $12.5billion acquisition in 2011, said “Having the boldness to think differently about problems that everybody has every day is really important for Motorola now.'”
Dugan added “Authentication is irritating. In fact its so irritating only about half the people do it, despite the fact there is a lot of information about you on your smartphone, which makes you far more prone to identity theft.”
She said authentication takes 2.3 seconds each time for existing users, some of whom log in to their phones a 100 times a day and added Motorola would not be put off by those who felt that the new technologies were “creepy”.
Meanwhile, the Moto X phone, which will launch in October, will be struggling Motorola’s first device to go on sale sinces its acquisition. It will know what you want to do before you do but cost significantly less than an iPhone, Motorola has claimed.
The phone, which is to largely be manufactured in America, will also use advanced sensors to anticipate user behaviour, Woodside said.
Without offering further details, he said the Moto X would change the way users “engage with how the devices are designed”, and that the “broadly distributed” phone would provide “experiences [that] are unlike other experiences out there.”
The device will also be an attempt to drive down prices of smartphones, and Woodside said the flagship device would compete with both top Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One as well as the iPhone, which is expected to be updated later this year.
Woodside said the Moto X “is more contextually aware of what’s going on around it. It allows you to interact with it more than other devices today. It anticipates my need”.
The device, which is likely to build on the features in Google’s ‘Now’ search product, will aim to predict what a user wants to do so that they do not waste time choosing it manually. Examples include automatically sensing a device is travelling at speed along a road and suggesting entering ‘car mode’ or making it faster to open the camera application.
Woodside added that Google wanted to sell the device at lower margins than companies such as Apple have become used to. Although he did not aim the iPhone specifically, he told the D11 conference, “Those products earn 50 per cent margins. We don’t necessarily have those constraints. Those [margins] will not persist.” He said that while computers and televisions had seen dramatic price drops in recent years, smartphones had yet to see such falls.