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Could Emoji Replace Pin Numbers?

Emoji passcode (screenshot via <a href="https://vimeo.com/130728753" target="_blank">Vimeo</a>)
The Emoji passcode app in action (screenshot via Vimeo)

Emoji have been widely praised for the way they can foster better communication. But what if they could also make it easier to remember things — for instance, the password to your bank account?

Today, the UK information technology company Intelligent Environments unveiled the world’s first “emoji security technology.” As reported by Mashable, the software lets you replace your old-fashioned pin number with a four-symbol passcode selected from 44 emoji that include penguins, aliens, and fried chicken drumsticks.

Emoji characters (Screen grab via Vimeo)
Emoji characters (screenshot via Vimeo)

In a promotional video for the program, memory expert and Mind Mapping inventor Tony Buzan explained that people tend to forget passwords because the brain works “imagistically” rather than mathematically or linguistically. “Images are the prime way of remembering anything you want to remember,” he said.

So instead of clicking on “Forgot Password” every time, you could instead retrieve a string of emoji associated with a memorable story of your own creation. “I might choose to remember: [baby emoji], wakes me up in the morning; [bicycle emoji] to work; have an [apple emoji] at lunchtime; and then have a [beer emoji] in the evening,” explained product development manager Alan Brown.

And, as it turns out, emoji might not just be a boon to memory but also to security. The company claims its emoji can be arranged in about 3.5 million different ways, as opposed to the mere 7,290 possible permutations for real numbers — making an emoji passcode 480 times more secure than a four-digit pin number (especially for those of us who lazily use our birth dates). “When technology is used intelligently,” Buzan said, “utopia beckons on the horizon.”

So, in a perfect world, we’ll all withdraw money using hearts and poop swirls and sign our student loan promissory notes with fried panko shrimp. Is that the future? Would people really ditch an ancient, sophisticated numbering system in favor of 21st century pictorial characters?

Maybe. Out of the 1,300 people polled by Intelligent Environments during their research phase, a third admitted to having forgotten their pin numbers at some point, and a full 64% of millennials claimed to “regularly communicate only using emoji.” For them, an emoji passcode should be more than cause to rejoice.

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