More secure mobile phones unveiled

Three prototypes have been developed as part of an initiative from the Home Office, the Design Council and the Technology Strategy Board to develop new ways to secure mobile phones against thieves and fraudsters.

The prototypes developed in the Mobile Phone Security Challenge focus on three key areas: making mobile phones harder to steal; making the data stored on them harder to steal; and making mcommerce (transactions through mobiles) safer.

The projects will be displayed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on 15 February, and all development teams own the intellectual property of their prototypes, so are able to take them to market.

The prototypes have been developed by teams of designers and technology experts working together, and the project was funded to the tune of £400 000 by the challenge partners.

The Touch Safe prototype has been developed by Suffolk based design consultancy Minima with consumer technology company Proxama.

Touch Safe comprises a key card, which the user swipes their phone against to unlock the phone’s ability to make a payment.

The key card, which could be carried in the user’s pocket or wallet for example, uses near-field communication technology to unlock the phone.

Nick Field, design director at Minima, says the scheme came about as Minima is already involved in mobile phone payment technology, ’but there are obviously issues in terms of perceptions of security’.

Field says there are ’significant plans’ to develop the prototype further.

Hampshire-based consultancy Rodd teamed up with technology company TTP to develop the Tie system.

This prototype pairs two encryption systems to secure both the handset and the data stored on the phone.

This enables the phone to be locked to one or more SIM cards, and data protections is applied with user controlled PIN entry (pictured).

Adam Eager, designer at Rodd, says that not only does the system attempt to tackle organised crime, but it also aims to provide an easy anduser-friendly way for people to secure their phones.

Eager says, ’A lot of people already know they can secure their phone with a PIN in settings, but bringing this selection method up to the front makes it easier for them to do.’

Eager says the consultancy is currently looking at different ways to bring the prototype to market.

The i-migo concept was developed by design consultancy PDD with technology company DTC.

The i-migo product is a Bluetooth device that communicates with the mobile phone, and automatically backs up information on it.

When the mobile phone is more than 10m away from the i-migo, it goes out of range and locks down, while alarms are activated on both the phone and the Bluetooth device.

Graham Lacy, chairman at PDD, says the team is looking at a number of ways to develop the project, and that it could be brought to market in ’a matter of months’.


  • Steve Babbage, Security technologies manager and group chief cryptographer, Vodafone Group R&D
  • Mark Delaney, Director, Connect Design, Nokia
  • Josh Dhaliwal, Co-founder, Mobile Youth
  • Richard Martin, Business security consultancy, UK Payments Administration
  • Joe McGeehan, Managing director, Toshiba Research Lab
  • Dr Walter Tuttlebee, Executive director, Mobile VCE
  • Simon Waterfall, Co-founder, Poke

Latest articles