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Brief Published: 28 Jul 2014

Digital Tattoo Unlocks Phone

Mobile phone manufacturer Motorola has teamed up with US electronics firm VivaLnk to develop a temporary skin tattoo that can be used to unlock a smartphone.

Digital Tattoo uses a super-thin near field communication (NFC) circuit to communicate with the Moto X handset. Wrapped in medical-grade adhesive, it stays attached to skin for up to five days. The tattoos are available to buy in packs of 10 for $9.99, and are currently only compatible with the Moto X.

The tattoo is designed to make it easier and quicker for users to access their mobiles. Unlocking a phone using a preset security code takes 2.3 seconds each time, according to Motorola – and the average smartphone user unlocks their phone an average of 39 times a day. To save time, more than half of users have simply not set up a security code on their device, leaving their personal data vulnerable.

Electronic tattoos and other biometric password tools have been in development for a while, with US body tech firm MC10 working to develop flexible electronic circuits and edible "password pills".

Meanwhile, gestural unlocking systems such as Knock Unlock are gaining ground among consumers with 'password fatigue' – particularly in light of the massive internet security bug Heartbleed discovered earlier this year.

For more on this topic, take a look at Super Security and Mobile World Congress: Security and Privacy.