Back to the future: From Hieroglyphics to Emojis — The full revolution of the image

This is not your standard tech blog. But then again, PixelPin is not your standard tech product. An innovative solution — born from a shift of perspective — requires a fresh tone. PixelPin could well spell the end of password authentication and lead the way into an increasingly visual world, and this is why:

The Natural Image
The hieroglyphic alphabet is a pictogramatic script that was first used by the Ancient Egyptians in the 40th Century BC. These ancient images communicate a specific phonetic sound or even a whole word, and to great success; hieroglyphics were used for almost 4000 years.

Professor Allan Paivo, in 1973, hypothesised a phenomena know as the Picture Superiorty Effect. Paivo’s evidence based work into image association proved that humans can remember images much more effectively than words. This is hardly surprising given that 90% of transmitted information in the brain is visual, and together these facts of human nature give an insight in to why early alphabets — such as the hieroglyphics were pictograms; they are so natural and obvious.

% of recall of words over image after 72h

However, writing in Hieroglyphs was time consuming and labour intensive. As society developed it demanded an alphabet that was easier to write. Short hand forms of the hieroglyph, which sketched out the image, began to take shape. Known as Egyptian Hieratic, this new cursive alphabet laid the foundations for western alphabets and the letters that now fill your screen.

Back to the Image

Society depends on the solutions that it has developed. Our ability to communicate quickly and efficiently with one another has always been at the forefront of innovation but the instant gratification society that we live in has now stretched the alphabet to its limit.

Since the initial move from images to letters, we now have phrases abbreviated into ‘ASAPs’, ‘LOL’s’ and ‘OMG’s’ — the text lingo that dominates our daily written interactions. The sacrifice we make for efficient communication is the complexity we can convey, we want to say more with less.

Unsurprisingly, society is now developing ways around this and technology has, yet again, provided us with the answer — the Emoji.
The computer generated Emoji confirmed its position in modern culture with the Oxford Dictionary making it word of the year, 2015.

‘ The Face with Tears of Joy’.

Whether you like it or not, this little yellow face is the future.

What has this got to do with Passwords?

Alphabets have developed over thousands of years into a structure that is designed to allow us to communicate effectively, to share ideas, to write fascinating blogs… But is it not strange that these same alphabets form the backbone of our cyber security?
Everyday we rely on alphabets to keep what is private to us secure. Admittedly, 9.8% of end users do mix it up with a password ending with 1234, but ultimately, despite peoples best efforts, 99.8% of passwords are on hackers lists.

With society returning to the image in other areas it raises the probability for password authentication to also follow this trend.

A picture says a thousand passwords

At PixelPin we believe that a return to the image is the answer.
The limitations of alphabetic passwords do not transfer into a visual solution. This is because the number of potential passpoints, and the combination which they are selected in, is so vast. When this is coupled with an infinite number of potential images and our military grade encryption, PixelPin reaches previously unchartered levels of technological security.

By being a visual solution we are also, like the alphabet to the emoji, returning to what is most natural and inherent to humans. This makes passpoint combinations memorable and creates an authentication process that is user-friendly and engaging which is beneficial for both clients and end users.

This is why changing to a visual solution with PixelPin is not just plausible but inevitable.

Written by Nick Toomey