Feds want a phone smart enough to burn itself if it falls into the wrong hands

Walk this way – 'cause if you don't, the phone will die

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It won't surprise you at all to know that the US government is keenly interested in the idea of self-destructing electronics.

What it wants, apparently, is to give a phone the ability to detect whether the person carrying it is the right person – for example, by walking style.

Since phones are crawling with sensors, there are plenty of opportunities to use sensor data to build up a pretty comprehensive profile of a user's normal behavior.

The aim is to develop smartphones, initially based on Boeing's Black Smartphone, suitable for the top-secret community – a world which has become increasingly paranoid post-Snowden.

As Nextgov reported late last week, Boeing and HRL Laboratories (a subsidiary it owns jointly with GM) are already at work on the "brain chip."

The two-and-a-half-year, US$2.2m project is concentrating on what the DHS calls a "neuromorphic" chip to simulate human learning.

The Black Smartphone was a joint Boeing-Blackberry project, based on (as the company says) Android "with enhanced security policy" (meaning, we suppose, "a security policy rather than almost none").

It's designed to self-destruct if it's tampered with, and the new project would presumably integrate with that capability if it makes it into production.

At this early stage, however, the aim is more modest: to get the neuromorphic chip to a point where a field trial can be attempted.

Nextgov also turned up a hint that Uncle Sam is either about to start using the Black Smartphone in the field, or already has some units out there.

In this solicitation, the Department of State lays out its plans for a Black Smartphone workshop. ®


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