Unlock your cellphone by holding it to your ear? Yes, says Bellingham company

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 27, 2014 

Descartes PAD

Descartes Biometrics President and CEO Michale Boczek in his Bellingham office, April 24, 2014. Boczek will be attending the Consumer Electronics Show on the Hill in Washington D.C., next week.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

BELLINGHAM - For those who are having a tough time remember all those account passwords, a Bellingham company has come up with a solution that is as simple as bringing the smartphone up to your ear.

Michael and Katie Boczek operate Descartes Biometrics, a local high-tech firm that develops computer software to allow users to unlock their personal information with their own unique physical identity.

The ear, it turns out, is just as unique as a fingerprint, said Michael Boczek, so earlier this year the company released a program called Ergo that unlocks the smartphone with the mere motion of putting the phone up to the ear. He believes the concept eventually will be used in a variety of ways, including accessing bank accounts and other websites on the smartphone.

The Ergo app is currently available for Android phones and is expected soon for iPhones.

"I see a world that is free of PIN numbers and passwords," he said. "Your identity becomes your key."

It is products like this that may have attracted the attention of legislators in Washington, D.C. Boczek will be traveling there this week to an invitation-only Consumer Electronics Association event with members of Congress. Legislators will get a chance to talk to the technology companies about new products, and computer security is bound to be a popular topic, given how much personal information is available through smartphones.

The company also is unveiling a product called Oath for computer tablets that involves putting fingers on the screen to unlock it.

Early on using biometrics for security was only for law enforcement and big companies because it was deemed too expensive. With computer hacking, particularly through smartphones, becoming more problematic, Boczek said biometrics - whether it's ears, fingerprints, eyes or even one's gait - are becoming a popular solution and less costly because of advances in the field.

He said Apple has helped bring biometrics to the mainstream consumer, by adding its fingerprint application to unlock the latest iPhone. Boczek believes the ear might be a better option, given the habit of putting the phone up to the ear.

As for the company itself, it currently employs eight people part time and full time. Descartes is beginning work to add companies as clients by convincing them that biometrics are a more secure way to go than passwords, or at least a good addition. Given the high costs companies are paying for consumer fraud, he believes they are looking for alternatives.

For details on Descartes, visit descartesbiometrics.com.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or dave.gallagher@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Business Blog at bellinghamherald.com/business-blog or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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