TWC: Small: Collaborative: Wearable Authentication Solutions for Ubiquitous and Personal Touch-enabled Devices

  • Gruteser, Marco (PI)

Project Details


This project for Wearable Authentication Solutions for Ubiquitous and Personal Touch-Enabled Devices (WASUP) studies and designs models and techniques to identify, authenticate, and audit touches on touch-sensing devices using a small wearable token. The token, such as a bracelet or ring, embeds a security code in the capacitive touch signature of a user, which is detected with the existing capacitive sensors used in many touch screens. This offers a number of distinct and desirable properties. First, the code is clearly associated with a touch, even if multiple potential users are nearby. Second, one can expect attacks on the communication channel to be more difficult to execute, since virtually no over-the-air signal propagation is involved. Owing to these unique security properties, this project supports a broad range of applications with significant societal impact. For example, a security token based on this proposed technology could lead to authentication solutions that progressively or continuously authorize users and are more robust than current techniques such as PIN codes, Bluetooth, and Near Field Communications (NFC). The underlying primitives of WASUP could also allow unobservable and direct contact communication, for example in tactical scenarios, when the detection of communication can compromise mission security. Given the significantly growing use of capacitive-touch interaction, there exists great potential for widespread applications of these techniques. The WASUP project will also include a variety of exciting and appealing educational activities involving K-12 and undergraduate students, such as developing applications that make use of WASUP through research internship programs.

The team will first model the generation, propagation, and detection of capacitive touch communication signals and explore relevant design trade-offs. The expected outcomes include the environment model, through-body signal propagation model, and touch propagation time model, which will provide the foundational understandings of the capabilities and limitations of capacitive touch communication channel. Informed by these models, the team will investigate design alternatives of the hardware transmitter and the corresponding receiver software in order to achieve the data rates necessary for many real-world authentication and identification scenarios. In the third thrust, the researchers propose to design, analyze, implement, and evaluate WASUP-based security devices and protocols for compelling and practical use cases. The team plans to bootstrap the WASUP ecosystem by demonstrating practical wearable hardware tokens with sample applications on current off-the-shelf devices.

Effective start/end date10/1/169/30/19


  • National Science Foundation: $150,000.00


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