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Security device watches your step

By Julie Clothier for CNN

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Scientists hope the new security system will prevent millions of portable devices being stolen every year.

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(CNN) -- Finnish scientists have created a security system for mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices, based on identifying owners' walking styles.

The new technology is being tested by Helsinki-based VTT Technical Research Centre, and its creators say it could be commercially available within three years, and may prevent millions of portable appliances being stolen every year.

Research professor Heikki Ailisto told CNN that the system involved fitting electronic devices with sensors, which monitored their owners' walking styles.

Because devices such as mobile phones and PDAs were often kept in pockets or belt clips, the sensors actively monitor the way the owner walks when the device is used for the first time.

The measurements are saved in the sensor's memory and the sensors then monitor the walking style of anyone who carries the device.

"The acceleration sensor measures the frequency of your steps and how high your step is," Ailisto said.

"It learns your walking style in the first day. If the walking style is similar enough, then you are the rightful owner of the device. If it strongly decides this has been stolen, then it will lock the device and ask you for a password."

Ailisto said identification using the sensors had been 90 percent accurate during testing.

"Compared with passwords and traditional bio identification, the new method is simple: confirmation of identity takes place as a background process without any need for user's intervention," he said.

He said the gait-based identification had come about when two researchers, one who worked in biometrics including fingerprint and face recognition, and another in human motion and fitness, worked together to come up with the idea.

Previous security systems that used a person's movements to identify them had involved closed circuit television monitors, whereas the Finnish system was based on advanced computation, Ailisto said.

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