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Innovation Lab: Ear-based Security, Reforesting Drones, and World Peace Apps

Tim Maytom

At Mobile Marketing we're proud to help tech companies showcase their cutting-edge solutions; the Startup Showcase at our Mobile Marketing Summits gives a platform to those companies, and brings audiences one step closer to ideas and developments that are breaking new ground in the market.


In that spirit, our Innovation Lab feature takes a step beyond the world of apps, ads and handsets with slightly bigger screens, in order to share some of the tech world's innovative ideas. They might be interesting, disruptive or just outright strange, but these are the stories that have caught our eye over the past week.

Ears are the New Fingerprints with Yahoo Labs Biometric ID SolutionBodyprint-presentation.003Fingerprint identification has become a popular feature on smartphones and other technology in recent years, with devices like the iPhone and Galaxy S6 including fingerprint scanners for additional security and payment authorisation, but the technology is expensive and hasn't truly broken into the mainstream yet.

Researchers at Yahoo Labs may have found a way to create a similar level of security using technology that exists in most phones already. The team's Bodyprint project utilises a touchscreen's capacitive sensor to scan for biometric data.

While the resolution of the image sensor doesn't have the ability to scan fingerprints, it can use features like a person's ear shape (which is as individual as a fingerprint) to identify authorised users and unlock the phone. During trials, the system showed a 99.5 per cent precision rate, and a low 7.8 per cent rejection rate for ear prints.

The technology can also identify users through finger grip position, palm print, fist and the phalanges of a hand, with one use case the team demonstrating using dual fist unlocking on secure files to mean sensitive documents are only opened if both parties are present.

Ex-NASA Engineer Wants to Plant A Billion Trees Using Drones



Solving deforestation is a big, complex and expensive problem to try and solve, with traditional reforestation solutions involving labourious hand-planting of seeds or saplings, which is slow, expensive and relatively ineffective, especially given the scale and speed at which trees can be cut down.

Lauren Fletcher, a former engineer at NASA and his company BioCarbon Engineering hopes to address this by deploying drones to achieve industrial-scale reforestation that can plant 1bn trees a year without ever having to set foot on the ground.

The drones developed by the company can scout large areas, mapping the landscape and scanning for areas with the potential for reforestation. Once an area is judged suitable for restoration, the drones can hover a few metres off the ground and fire out germinated seeds covered in a nutritious hydrogel that encourages uptake rates.

While the plan isn't perfect, and the seeds will have a lower individual survival rate than with hand-planting, Fletcher estimates that with just two people operating a fleet of drones, the company will be able to plant almost 36,000 seeds a day at 15 per cent of the current cost.

Amin and Dr BenitsasHacked Xbox Controller Offers Solution for Parkinson's Sufferers

Scientists at Brunel University in London have developed a system for people living with Parkinson's that aims to counter two of the most common symptoms of the degenerative disease through the use of technology.

Using a hacked Xbox Kinect system, the solution hopes to help alleviate freezing of gait (FOG), where patients find their muscles freezing mid-stride, leaving them unable to move forward or causing them to fall over.

Previous research has shown that visual clues like lines on the floor can help "unfreeze" the muscles, but current solutions require patients to wear heavy equipment that projects these. By combining the Kinect motion-tracking technology with a ceiling-mounted laser, the solution can not only project prompt lines when it detects a FOG incident, but also trigger a video call if the system detects someone has fallen down.

"All the other systems require a patient to wear sensors and power packs where our solution is unobtrusive and covers a whole room," said Dr Konstantinos Banitsas, who led the project to develop the solution. "By mounting the laser guide marker on the ceiling it can provide the visual clues in any direction. And it is only activated when a FOG incident occurs instead of having to be worn constantly."

Modular Smartphone Cases Lets You Swap in Memory, Speakers and More



We've seen smartphone cases that introduce new features before, and Google's Project Ara has been hard at work on a modular phone, but Nexpaq aims to combine the strengths of both of these things, providing consumers with a smartphone case that can add a variety of different features, and can swap one for another as easily as plugging in a charger.

The device, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, has 12 announced modules so far, including an amplified speaker, super LED flashlight, temperature and humidity reader, USB flash connector, laser pointer and even a breathalyser, and the company promises more to come.

The case which the various modules connect to includes a battery to not only power the new features, but boost existing battery life by 30 to 60 per cent, and will initially be available for iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 Edge. The modules can even be swapped between iOS and Android phones for users who have more than one phone, or want to exchange modules with friends.

verona comboTinder-style App Lets Israelis and Palestinians Swipe Right for Peace

Ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? There's an app for that, apparently. Verona, a Tinder-style matchmaking app is hoping that it can help encourage a dialogue between residents of the two states, and possibly even lead to some romances blossoming between the two sides.

Users identify themselves as Israeli, Palestinian or other, complete a profile and can then browse other users, swiping right if they think the person is interesting. When mutual 'likes' occur, the app connects the users for a conversation, hoping to bridge the gap between the two populations and develop understanding between everyday people on both sides.

While the free Android app doesn't advertise itself as a romantic matchmaking app, but as a "fun way for Israelis and Palestinians to connect", the Tinder-style interface could well lead to some romantic liaisons between residents, as well as world peace.