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The Innovators

Swallow This 'Password' Pill to Unlock Your Digital Devices

Far Out Tech

It seems like every other day we read about some far-out, new technology that makes us scratch our heads and say, "What the heck?" In this series, we'll take a look at all types of crazy new gadgets, apps and other technologies -- and the entrepreneurs dreaming them up.

Forget concocting long, complicated passwords to protect your digital devices and the precious information you access on them. They’re too easy for hackers to crack and for you to forget. Just pop Motorola’s edible “authentication vitamin” pill and you can literally become the password.

Becoming a living, breathing human password is really the big idea behind the telecom company’s controversial swallowable electronic pill. A quick soak in your gastric juices turns the pioneering pill on, triggering it to transmit an 18-bit, EKG-like signal from your insides. The ingestible micro computer’s (thankfully silent) signal would then automagically unlock your smartphone and other gadgets. Yes, you’ll actively be your very own password beacon for as long as the pill is still inside of you.

And you thought external wearables were all that.

Regina Dugan, former director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and current senior vice president of Motorola’s cutting-edge special projects team, is an outspoken champion of the pill, and of making the authentication process more human overall. At an event last year, Dugan said that once the tablet is swallowed, it basically turns you into a cyborg. Well, kind of.

“It means that my arms are like wires, my hands are like alligator clips — when I touch my phone, my computer, my door, my car, I’m authenticated in. It’s my first super power. I want that.”

Too bad the pill, developed with help from ingestible tech leader Proteus Digital Health, isn’t available for purchase just yet, despite successfully winning FDA approval. Dugan claims it’s “medically safe” enough to take up to 30 times a day every day.

In these early days, many questions remain. How much will it cost? Will you need a prescription to get it? Does it really stop emitting a signal upon, um, elimination?

Like it or not, ingestible transmitters like these are here to stay and we’re going to see a lot more of them. Pharmaceutical giants like Otsuka and Novartis have teamed up with Proteus to embed medications with sensors that will automatically tip doctors off to how well their patients’ bodies respond to meds. They’ll collect and stream real-time data like skin temperature, heart rate and who knows what else.  

Want a close-up look at Motorola’s small but mighty password pill? Here's a video, via Slate:

What crazy apps and gadgets have you come across lately? Let us know by emailing us at FarOutTech@entrepreneur.com or by telling us in the comments below.

Kim Lachance Shandrow is a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com.

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