Heart scan biometrics
The scanner will make use of Doppler radar to scan for hearts Bob Wilder/University at Buffalo

Researchers have developed a biometric system that scans users' hearts to lock or unlock gadgets.

The scanning system uses the dimensions of the heart to identify users, says a press release by the University at Buffalo.

They believe it will be the next advancement in computer security because "no two people with identical hearts have ever been found".

By using low-level Doppler radar, it will identify and continually monitor the right heart. The report says that this will ensure that a locked computer, for example, is not being used by any other person.

The team plans on presenting this technology at the International Conference on Mobile Computing and Communication (MobiCom), next month.

While the team, led by Wenyao Xu at UB Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is looking at using this system in computers by condensing it down to a size that could possibly be placed inside keyboards, they also want to fit it in smartphones down the line.

The waves emitted by the radar system are weaker than Wi-Fi, says Xu, and therefore pose no health hazards. "We are living in a Wi-Fi surrounding environment every day, and the new system is as safe as those Wi-Fi devices," he said. "The reader is about 5 milliwatts, even less than 1 percent of the radiation from our smartphones."

The scanner needs about eight seconds to scan the heart initially after which it continuously recognises the registered heart. It looks for the geometry of the heart including shape, size and the way it beats. As hearts do not change shape, it is seen as a good way to secure a sensitive device. The report also noted that when a person goes through serious heart disease, it is possible that hearts may change shape.

Apart from being secure in the sense that it might not be possible to replicate a heart, researchers say that the system is also better than other biometrics because it is a contact free, non-invasive, and remote way to login.

The device can monitor and measure a heart from up to 30 metres away, says the report.

Another potential sci-fi use for this heart scanner is that it could be used to track and identify people at airports and other public places.