The characters are selected from a bank of 44 emoji. Intelligent Environments, the company that invented the system, claims that emoji are mathematically more secure than traditional four digit passcodes, because there are 480 times more permutations.
The system also prevents hackers from identifying common and easily obtainable numerical passcodes, like a date of birth or a wedding anniversary.
Research shows that emoji are also easier to remember than traditional passcodes, as humans remember pictures better than words.
“The Emoji Passcode plays to humans’ extraordinary ability to remember pictures, which is anchored in our evolutionary history,” said memory expert Tony Buzan, inventor of the Mind Map technique.
“We remember more information when it’s in pictorial form, that’s why the Emoji Passcode is better than traditional PINs.”
Intelligent Environments is currently in discussion with banks that are considering rolling the technology out to their customers within the next 12 months.
Intelligent Environments launched the feature in response to a recent survey of 1,337 UK adults, which showed that nearly a third of Britons have forgotten their PINs, and one in four use the same PIN for all their cards.
However, Professor Mike Jackson, cyber security expert at Birmingham City University, warned that introducing emoji’s could leave users worse off, and more confused as they try to remember multiple passwords.
“The difficulty with emojis is that there are several options for the same expression – there isn’t just one smiley face, but several alternatives, whereas we all know what a letter or number looks like,” he said.
“At present this method couldn’t be extended to ATMs or used in retail outlets, therefore customers would still need a PIN code to access their account when not online, which would mean they would in fact need to remember more than one code.”
The news comes after research from Bangor University revealed that emoji is the fastest growing language in the UK, with 72 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds claiming they find it easier to put their feelings across using emoji than with words.
“Smiley face” is the most popular emoji symbol, followed by “crying with laughter” and “love heart”. “Beaming red cheeks” and “thumbs up” also make it into the top five.
The Unicode Consortium – a California-based organisation that standardises characters and emoji across all the different operating systems – recently published a list of 38 new emoji, which will be added to the existing set next year.
“What’s clear is that the younger generation is communicating in new ways,” said David Webber, manager director at Intelligent Environments.
“Our research shows 64 per cent of millennials regularly communicate only using emojis. So we decided to reinvent the passcode for a new generation by developing the world’s first emoji security technology.”