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Android 4.0 says hello – to your face – using native facial biometrics for security

Google is responding to security shortcomings in its Android platform, as Android 4.0 supports a facial biometrics API
Google is responding to security shortcomings in its Android platform, as Android 4.0 supports a facial biometrics API

Launched in Hong Kong last week, Android 4.0 includes a unified interface for phones and tablets – as well as a number of significant new technical features, including native facial detection.

The SDK for Android 4.0 was released late last week and, according to the ArsTechnica newswire, is complete recode of the Android platform, designated as API level 14.

As with previous versions of Android, Google is encouraging developers to run the operating system on an emulator running on desktop or laptop PC. Unfortunately for developers, the newswire says that the emulation runs slowly, even on a multi-core system box, but the real speed of Android is reserved for ARM processor environments.

The facial detection system seen on Android 4.0 reportedly uses the facility as a native screen-locking mechanism that will disengage when it sees the phone's owner. The underlying face tracking functionality, says the newswire, is available to third-party developers through some fairly intuitive new APIs.

Android 4.0, says ArsTechnica, has a lot to offer users, with the new APIs opening up a lot of new functionality for third-party developers to incorporate into their applications.

According to ITWorld, meanwhile, as Google was launching Android 4.0 in Hong Kong, Microsoft's chief executive Steve Balmer was reportedly trashing the smartphone operating system in favor of Windows Phone 7 at a Web 2.0 summit in San Francisco.

As the newswire observed, “it's not his fault he did it on a day Android took another two big steps forward to lengthen its already big lead over Microsoft's offering.”

“It was just poor timing that the CEO of the company with the most under-performing smartphone operating system would slam the market leader on the same day Google announced yet another widely praised, anxiously anticipated update of its OS for what Ballmer called cheap phones”, noted the newswire.

After installing the SDK over the weekend, Infosecurity notes that the Android 4.0 emulation still exhibits some coding shortcomings, including a lack of a native X Window System or support for the full set of standard GNU libraries – limitations that make it difficult to port existing Linux applications or libraries to the Android platform.

Data storage is also non-standard, as Android 4.0 continues to use SQLite – a lightweight relational database – for data storage purposes.

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