Capacitive Fingerprinting: User Differentiation Through Capacitive Sensing

At present, touchscreens can differentiate multiple points of contact, but not who is touching the device. In this work, we consider how the electrical properties of humans and their attire can be used to support user differentiation on touchscreens. We propose a novel sensing approach based on Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing, which measures the impedance of a user to the environment (i.e., ground) across a range of AC frequencies. Different people have different bone densities and muscle mass, wear different footwear, and so on. This, in turn, yields different impedance profiles, which allows for touch events, including multitouch gestures, to be attributed to a particular user. This has many interesting implications for interactive design. We describe and evaluate our sensing approach, demonstrating that the technique has considerable promise. We also discuss limitations, how these might be overcome.

This research was undertaken at Disney Research Pittsburgh.


Munehiko Sato
Ivan Poupyrev



Harrison, C., Sato, M., and Poupyrev, I. Capacitive Fingerprinting: Exploring User Differentiation by Sensing Electrical Properties of the Human Body. In Proceedings of the 25th Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 7 - 10, 2012). UIST '12. ACM, New York, NY. 537-544.

© Chris Harrison