Google IO and ATAP team projects

The day after the Google IO conference, Google's ATAP (Advanced Technology And Projects) team presented two projects that could well change our daily lives in terms of security and identification.

The Abacus project:


The aim of Abacus is to identify the user by analyzing usage habits. Abacus looks at how the user types, moves, swipes and what applications they use. On top of this, it also uses familiar authentication tools such as biometrics, voice recognition and face recognition. By combining all these variables, the system attempts to identify the person using the device and can verify that it is indeed the owner.

By multiplying the indicators, Google asserts that it is complicated to deceive Abacus. Indeed, it seems more complicated to fool Abacus than conventional authentication systems, such as passwords or fingerprint scans. On the other hand, Abacus constantly collects and analyzes all kinds of data. As a result, battery life is likely to suffer. Let's hope Google finds a way to optimize power consumption.

No release date has been announced, but the demonstration given at the conference is promising.

The Vault project:


Project Vault is a secure microcomputer on a microSD card. This card contains: an ARM processor, NFC, an antenna and a 4GB partition reserved for secure content. The card runs a real-time operating system for a variety of uses. What's interesting about the microSD card format is that it's compatible with a large number of smartphones, and independent of the phone's operating system.

Two demonstrations were given at the conference:

  • The first demonstration was encrypted chat. The chat takes place securely via an encrypted channel set up by Vault.
  • The second demonstration was the use of Vault to eliminate password usage while keeping logins and data secure. Like the Abacus project, Vault can learn from a user's device usage and automatically connect them to certain services.

Like Abacus, the Vault project is still in its infancy and has no "release" dates. However, a development kit is already available on Github for those who want to play with it.

In conclusion, two promising projects to keep an eye on over the coming months.



Security Consultant