It gives the term skeleton key a whole new meaning: a prototype system from AT&T Labs that beams a unique vibration through a user’s bones to be picked up by a receiver in a door handle, automatically unlocking the door at the touch of the handle. Using piezoelectric transducers, the system could someday be embedded in smartphones or wristwatches to create doors that automatically unlock when the right person touches them and stay firmly dead-bolted when anyone else tries to gain entry.
In the future, in other words, you are your own set of keys. According to InnovationNewsDaily, the system works via frequencies that humans can’t feel but could hear in a very quiet room. These acoustic signals travel from one piezoelectric transducer through human bones much the way sound waves vibrate through the skull and inner ear to enable our sense of hearing. The vibration travels straight through the body including through the hand, which can impart the signal to anything it touches. Put another piezoelectric transducer in the door handle, and the door can identify the person touching the handle and grant entry appropriately.
But it’s not just the raw acoustic signal that the door is analyzing. The brains behind this prototype key have found that different skeletons–different bone densities and lengths, etc.–degrade the acoustic signals in different ways. That means that in future iterations of their system, only the right combination of signal and skeleton would open the door. In other words, someone couldn’t just steal your phone and use it to open your car door or your apartment–without your unique skeletal fingerprint added to the signal, the door would remain closed. And it might text or email you to let you know someone tried to gain entry without the right key.
All that is pretty neat, especially considering that the applications for this wouldn’t have to stop at door locks. Other individual-specific implements could be rigged to recognize different people, so a car shared by a family could automatically adjust the driver’s seat and mirrors when a new person stepped into the car, or a computer could switch to the right parental settings depending on whether Dad or Junior is touching the keyboard. More about this over at InnovationNewsDaily.