Ditching passwords is the last thing you’d think of when it comes to improving smartphone security.
But with Project Abacus, that’s exactly what Google is planning to do with its Android operating system.
This new tool is set to rollout to developers later this year and could change forever how you access your smartphone, not to mention protect your data.
So, what is it? And when will it be heading to a smartphone near you? Read on and we’ll reveal all.
What is Project Abacus?
Quite simply, Project Abacus is a tool that allows you and you only to access your smartphone, but without having to remember passwords or tap a fingerprint scanner.
It’s been in the works for some time. But at last week’s Google I/O event, the company revealed that it wants to roll out the technology to developers later this year, paving the way for password-free unlocking to become a reality for Android smartphone owners.
How does it work?
We all know that smartphones contain and connect a terrifying amount of information about us.
Project Abacus taps into this data to work out who is using a device, creating a ‘Trust Score’ which is built up over time so your phone knows who’s using it.
Abacus does this by tracking details including how you type, your location, facial recognition and how you talk.
Doesn’t Google already offer something like this?
Yes. Its existing Smart Lock tool lets you fire up your device in a trusted location. But Smart Lock has to be turned on and you need a phone running Android 5.0 or higher.
Abacus will work in the background and always be switched on.
How will developers use Abacus?
Essentially, it will be a way for them to get rid of passwords when you access an app or want to make an in–app purchase.
This could have a variety of uses, from buying acess to new levels in a mobile game to making transactions within a mobile banking app. The latter is surely the biggest draw.
Google says major banks in the US will start testing Abacus in June, with a view to it becoming mainstream by the end of 2016.
That could mean an end to so–called ‘two-step verification’, when users have to remember a second passcode or wait for a text in order to access their banking app.
What if the Trust Score isn’t high enough?
Google says it’s got this covered. If your phone doesn’t trust who you are, it can ask for your password, reverting to the traditional security method.
It’s also likely that secure apps, specifically online banking, will ask for a higher Trust Score.
That means that app will possibly track more data to make sure you really are who you say you are.
What about using all your data?
Abacus is likely to cause major concern when it comes to privacy.
While it’s widely understood that smartphones deliver a huge amount of data to providers, from location to call logs, the idea of your phone tracking your face and input methods to suss out who you are is likely to worry many consumers.
The pay off is not having to remember your password and the chance that if your phone is stolen, no one will be able to crack into it.