The technology is known as Bodyprint, and was revealed by a blog post on the Yahoo Labs website. Bodyprint makes use of a smartphone’s capacitive touchscreen to scan your ear when you press your phone against it. An image is then generated which is used to identify the user and unlock the phone, writes Steven Tweedie for Business Insider.

Yahoo Can Unlock Your Smartphone Using Your Ear

Ears and various other body parts used to unlock devices

Researchers at Yahoo Labs have also been able to make Bodyprint work using other parts of the human body such as fists, knuckles, fingers and palms, using the touchscreen to create an image in each case. Although other body parts can be used, it would appear that the technology is best suited to use with the ear, seeing as people hold their phone there when they talk.

In this case a user would be required to press their ear fully against the phone in order to talk.

The majority of high-end smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S6 already make use of fingerprint-scanning technology, Bodyprint is being touted as a cheaper alternative. No additional sensors are required because the system uses the existing touchscreen as a sensor, meaning that the system could be used in cheaper models.

The fingerprint scanners included on flagship smartphones have a very high resolution, whereas the touchscreen produces a lower-resolution image. However Yahoo Labs maintains that Bodyprint is still accurate enough to fulfill its function.

Accuracy high enough for commercial use

“Bodyprint compensates for the low input resolution with an increased false rejection rate, but does not compromise on authentication precision,” according to Yahoo Labs. “In our evaluation with 12 participants, Bodyprint classified body parts with 99.98% accuracy and identifies users with 99.52% accuracy with a false rejection rate of 26.82% to prevent false positives.”

It is not yet known when, or indeed if, Bodyprint technology will ever be seen in smartphones, but on the surface it would appear to be a very effective way of bringing bio-identification technology to a wider range of devices. Yahoo Labs could have contributed to a major advance in the march of bio-identification technology in smart devices.