The unique way in which each person walks could soon be used to charge wearable electronics such as smartwatches, after Australian scientists developed technology which uses one's personal "gait" to power devices.
The breakthrough was announced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on Wednesday, after researchers successfully trialed a prototype which captures an individual's unique walking motion and transfers it into energy.
Currently, small sensors called accelerometers can be used to capture an individual's gait in terms of motion and velocity. However, this reduces the battery life of wearable devices and has prevented gait authentication from becoming more widely adopted.
Researchers from CSIRO have overcome this by combining gait recognition with a technique called kinetic energy harvesting (KEH), which translates a person's motion into electrical energy and improves battery life.
The KEH technology could also be used as a method of personal authentication, as an individual's walking pattern is nearly impossible to replicate, according to researcher Dr Sara Khalifa.
In a statement on Wednesday, she said the KEH technology combines with a recognition of the way one walks (known as their "gait") to turn motion into electrical energy - something she said could improve battery life in wearable technology such as smartwatches.
"By applying both techniques we have developed a way to achieve two goals at once - powering devices and the ability to verify a person's identity using a wearable device by capturing the energy generated from the way they walk," Khalifa said.
Khalifa's colleague, Professor Dali Kafaar said the technology could be successfully used in personal recognition because one's gait is almost as unique as one's fingerprint.
"It is convenient because as we walk around each day our gait can be sampled continuously and verified without us having to manually adjust anything," Kafaar said.
"It's also more secure than passwords because the way we walk is difficult to mimic. Since the KEH-gait keeps authenticating the user continuously, it collects a significant amount of information about our movements, making it difficult to imitate or hack unlike guessing passwords or pin codes."
According to the CSIRO, the technology was tested on 20 users, and early trials showed the technology reduced device energy usage by 78 percent and was able to correctly identify someone by their gait 95 percent of the time.
It was also showed that just 13 trials out of 100 were successful in hacking one's gait, meaning the CSIRO has a promising base with which to work in terms of future gait-based personal security.
"With many of us already tracking our health using wearable devices, there is a great opportunity to explore new authentication methods based on our movements," Kafaar said.