Emoji passcodes are easier and more secure

Humans’ inherent ability to remember pictures is behind a possible future shift to emoji passwords

emoji lead image
Credit: Intelligent Environments

A security company has just launched the first emoji-only passcode.

Intelligent Environments, a UK-based company who provides security solutions for banks, says emoji are more secure than the commonly used four-digit PIN.

Intelligent Environments wants users to replace their supposedly forgettable, numerical PINs with the smiley, and other icons. They say pictorial passcodes will be easier to remember.

The pictorial passcode is incorporated into the company’s new Android app, it says.

Happy Face

Mathematically, the shift makes sense. Four-digit PINs, which are based on numbers, have four sets of ten numbers to choose from. However, Intelligent Environments has come up with a bank of 44 of the adorable little ideograms.

That’s a lot more permutations, so theoretically it is more secure if you can remember which emoji you chose. Disappointed Face.

The security firm’s emoji system, in fact, gives you 3,498,308 unique permutations in comparison with “7,290 unique permutations of four non-repeating numbers,” the company says. Face with Stuck-Out Tongue and Winking Eye.

Remembering pictures

“We remember more information when it’s in pictorial form,” the inventor of a graphic memory technique called Mind Map says. The inventor, Tony Buzan is quoted by Intelligent Environments on its website.

Actually, memory-teacher Buzan’s ideas aren't just a stage act. They are corroborated with scientific evidence.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1997 delved into the issue and found that the encoding of pictures resulted in “greater activity of bilateral visual and medial temporal cortices, compared with encoding words.”


Emoji derive from Japanese electronic messages and have become popular outside Japan. They’re similar to ASCII emoticons, but have a wider range.

Apple integrated emoji into its iOS operating system in 2011, which helped with emoji’s global reach.

Emoji Passcode, the company’s app, includes objects such as a guitar and a person riding a bike. It doesn’t just use the common emotion-depicting People emoji, such as smiley face.

So, you’re not being expected to remember all of the nuances of human emotion in faces. Relieved Face.


Emoji communication

But one of the more fascinating elements prompted by this story is that young people are clearly communicating verbally using computer-eze.

In some cases, they aren’t using vernacular language in verbal interchanges at all.

One of my young nephews recently told me that kids at his school often used text shorthand-originating terms such as “LOL” in actual conversation—the acronym “LOL” means “laughing out loud.”


If that’s the case, then it would make sense that millennials—who have widely adopted texting apps, along with the associated emoji and shorthand—might find using emoji passwords an acceptable solution. Pensive Face.

In fact, the security company behind this emoji password idea says it has performed research which tells it that 64 percent of millennials “regularly communicate only using emoji.”

“So we decided to reinvent the passcode for a new generation by developing the world’s first emoji security technology,” it says. Smirking Face.

And all I can say in closing then is: Smiling Face with Open Mouth and Tightly-Closed Eyes. I'm sure you'll agree.

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