Haptic code entry to replace PIN codes at ATMs?

ATM keypadOne of the drawbacks of using the ATM to withdraw money is the lack of security – people can easily watch you enter your PIN code if they stand next to you or to your side. Well, some folks over at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon have come up with a solution to the problem – with the aid of mobile devices. Instead of making users enter their PIN codes on the machine’s keypad which is visible to everyone, the new system lets them utilize a touch-based code-entry system on their smartphones instead.

The phones will communicate with the machines via NFC readers, and will feature a unique way of entering your PIN. They’ve come up with two different systems using this method, and they seem like viable alternatives. The first approach, called PhoneLock, features alphanumeric icons on a smartphone touchscreen are replaced with a set of up to 10 different tactile cues known as tactons. The tactons are placed in a circular grid that is divided into several radial segments so that when the user moves their finger over a segment the vibrate motor in the device will vibrate in a specific pattern depending on which tacton is there. The user has feels the different segments until they find the right one in a sequence they have remembered and then press an icon at the centre of the circle to enter it.

The second method, SpinLock, gives users a circular wheel that works like the dial of an old-fashioned combination safe – but instead of running their fingers around it to the appropriate number, users spin it until they feel the correct number of clicks in a sequence before running it in the other direction.

Because these methods rely on haptic feedback, observers will have no way of telling how many vibrations has been counting without the use of any equipment. However the feedback can be simply rerouted to be emitted through headphones to counter such spying. What do you think of a touch-based code-entry system? Would it be a viable ATM keypad replacement?

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