Who Invented The Pattern Lock?

It is the most used method to protect the screen of mobiles and tablets, but who invented it and why? Here you can read the interesting story of the pattern lock.

Who Invented The Pattern Lock?

The touch screen pattern lock found on many mobile and tablet operating systems allows us to use a predefined pattern to securely lock a device. The system was patented by Google, and attributed to Americans James B. Miller and Jean-Michel Trivi.

Touch gesture technology for all!

Mobile phones, tablets, hand-held games consoles etc. all have touch screens that sense movement on the screen and then forward the information on to the device. The movements, made with fingers (or a stylus) are known as touch gestures.

Touch screens can detect actions that are first defined by a user. Once defined, the device can then recognise the touch gesture on the screen. In turn, the mobile or tablet carries responds by launching an app, changing screen or opening a document or image.

Mobile devices often have a lock screen to prevent unauthorised or involuntary access. Devices using Google’s Android system allow the user to define a pattern based on a touch gesture to unlock the screen. The feature, registered with the US patent office under the title Touch Gesture Actions from a Device’s Lock Screen, is known as pattern lock, and allows you to set a pattern to access your device in the same way you could set a password. Once you’ve set a pattern to unlock the screen you can use it as a security feature.

The Android unlock screen

The father of the pattern lock

James B. Miller is a developer who has worked for Google crafting solutions for mobile devices. His work has led to the creation of many apps that offer users the chance to personalise their lock screen. In fact, the pattern lock screen was one of the first characteristics Android was programmed with in order to differentiate it from Apple’s iOS. Whilst Apple devices went for a gesture based in the swipe motion, Google introduced the drawing of a pattern that’s unique to the user, to unlock the Android device.

The pattern is defined on this screen

Both were responses to the problem Steve Jobs identified when he presented the first iPhone model, that of how to avoid accidental unlocking. But Google’s flexible and secure unlocking solution went beyond the usual string of numbers, letters and symbols users traditionally input when they needed to access electronic accounts. They also adopted the swipe gesture for a number of actions available on Android devices, such as scrolling through photos in a gallery for example.

There are many different ways to unlock an Android

Forgot your unique pattern unlock code? No problem

There are a number of apps that allow you to unlock your smartphone if you can’t get past the pattern unlock screen, and given that Android belongs to Alphabet Corporation (Google’s new name) the quickest way to do this is, you guessed it, via a Gmail account.

When the system was first introduced one of the most popular ways of identifying the pattern code needed to unlock the screen was to place the device next to a strong light source. This enabled people to see the trace left by fingerprints on the screen and identify the unlock pattern.

When it became clear phones security could be breached so easily some makes of smartphone introduced their own unlocking system specific to their own firmware. Just as a PUK code can unblock a phone if you forget your PIN, the pattern gesture setting lets you set a PIN number that can be used to recover access to your phone if you forget your predefined pattern.