Introducing eGo: The human touch

A new technology is being developed that provides a secure way of authenticating yourself and accessing services – and your skin is the key

Imagine being able to unlock your front door simply by touching it, pay for your shopping without handing over any cash, cards or coupons, log in to your email on any computer without entering a password, or use any mobile phone with your account without inserting a SIM card. All this and much more will be possible with eGo.

The eGo project, currently being developed by a group of companies, including Gemalto, is taking wireless technology to new heights. It uses human skin to conduct electronic signals, enabling the exchange of data and authentication information for any transaction with just a touch. As eGo’s slogan puts it: “What you touch is yours!

For example, let’s say you want to unlock the door of your car. When you touch the door handle, the small eGo device that you carry on you (it could be attached to your belt or your watch strap, for example) makes contact with the car’s electronic locking system, using your skin to transmit the signal. This contact then activates a second communication between the eGo device and the car; the former confirms that you are the legitimate owner and the latter unlocks the door.

The intra-body communication uses an electric field to transfer the first message from an object you touch and another object you hold,” explains Alain Rhelimi, Technical Advisor at Gemalto, who is the inventor and project manager for eGo. “In modulating an electric field, you may transfer a signal through your garments over your skin.

A fingerprint sensor on the eGo device allows for a two-factor strong authentication – what you have (eGo) and who you are (biometry). We don’t use the intra-body communication to identify an individual; the sensor plays this role.

Funded by the European Commission, eGo is being developed within the CATRENE program (Cluster for Application and Technology Research in Europe on NanoElectronics). It will initially be prototyped and integrated in several forms of miniaturized systems for ultra low-power transmitters for intra-body communication, a highly secure micro controller comparable to those embedded in smart cards, a large data storage capacity and a highperformance, high-speed wireless (Ultra Wide Band) transmitter for exchanging application data.

Rhelimi says he expects the project to be completed in the next two years, adding that there are two stages. The first, perfecting the technology, is the easier of the two, as there are no foreseeable stumbling blocks so far. He sees the second stage – market, regulatory and social acceptance – as being more challenging. However, the two stages are being worked on concurrently in order to deliver the product to the market by the first quarter of 2013.

In the meantime, the digital security industry has already recognized the potential of eGo: it was named Best IT Security Application in the 2010 Sesames Awards at the Cartes & Identification show.

[Article published in The Review (Winter 2011)]

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"Imagine being able to unlock your front door simply by touching it"

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