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Invisibility Glasses and Encrypted Phones: Security Takes Center Stage at MWC

Security was top of mind in Barcelona this week.

AVG

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA, newspaper phone hacking scandals and the recent Sony troubles, security and privacy have been top of mind among businesses and consumers. This extended into this year’s Mobile World Congress show where security was a big topic, with numerous companies showing off products and solutions designed to tackle the problem.

Here are just a few of the products we saw:

Blackphone 2

Switzerland-based company Silent Circle first introduced its privacy-focused handset, the Blackphone, at last year’s show, and this year, it unveiled the sequel and talked about its first tablet.

The Blackphone 2 runs on a modified version of Google’s Android mobile operating system called PrivatOS. The OS includes a Silent Suite that automatically encrypts voice and video calls, messages and your address book.

 Blackphone 2
Blackphone 2
Bonnie Cha

New to the OS is a feature called Spaces. It was built with enterprise customers in mind, and allows users to set up different profiles for their professional and personal life. Apps and files used for work are kept separate from the ones you use in your personal time. If there were ever a situation where your work account got hacked, your IT administrator could lock and wipe that side of your phone without affecting your personal profile.

The smartphone also includes a number of hardware improvements, such as a larger 5.5-inch, full HD touchscreen, faster processor and more RAM.

The Blackphone 2 will be available in July for an unlocked price of $649. As for that tablet, Blackphone didn’t say much, but said it should come later this year.

GranitePhone

Brazilian company Sikur is also bringing a security-minded smartphone to the market called GranitePhone.

The phone offers encrypted calls, messages and chats with other GranitePhone users or iOS and Android users who are running a version of Sikur’s software. Unlike some other products, you can’t download any apps to the device, though the company plans to launch its own app store in the future that will offer software that has been tested and approved by Sikur.

 GranitePhone
GranitePhone
Bonnie Cha

Sikur says that its solution has been used in Brazil by the government and police, but it is now bringing its products to other parts of the world, including the United States. The GranitePhone will be available sometime in Q3, but pricing has not yet been announced.

Jolla

On the software side, Finland-based Jolla announced a new version of its Sailfish operating system called Sailfish Secure designed to address the security needs of government officials, businesses and consumers.

Jolla teamed up with security solutions company SSH Communications Security to create Sailfish Secure. Both companies firmly believe there needs to be an alternative, secure solution to Android and other major operating systems.

 Jolla Tablet
Jolla Tablet
Bonnie Cha

Details about specific features are still pretty light at this point, but Jolla plans to license Sailfish Secure to government and large corporations first, with a more affordable consumer solution to come later.

Jolla was founded by a group of ex-Nokia employees who worked on the company’s MeeGo software. Jolla’s products include a smartphone and tablet.

Qualcomm

For years Apple has had the only really decent fingerprint reading technology on phones. Samsung finally has a similar type of reader to Apple’s on its new Galaxy S6, but Qualcomm showed off a technology at MWC that could take things a step further.

Qualcomm is using sound waves to measure fingerprints. Doing so offers a number of advantages including the ability to read fingerprints despite water or lotion. Also, the technology can be placed underneath a cover of glass or metal, giving phone makers more flexibility on where to place a reader.

Ina Fried

The technology stems from a small acquisition that Qualcomm made in March 2013 of Ultrascan, an upstate New York company that had been doing work around government-grade fingerprint security technology.

The technology will show up on a number of phones later this year, Qualcomm said.

AVG

Last but not least, one of the more interesting security products of MWC was AVG’s Invisibility Glasses.

Designed to protect one’s identity from facial recognition software, the glasses feature infrared lights embedded into the frame around the eyes and nose area. When a photo is taken, the bright light created by the LEDs obscure those areas, which are essential to making facial recognition software work. The glasses also use retro-reflective materials that can bounce light back to the camera, resulting in a blown-out image.

AVG

The antivirus software company says there are some drawbacks to the technology. For example, the retro-reflective solution only works with flash photography.

That’s why the invisibility glasses are just a concept for now. AVG is continuing to investigate how the technology can be used to help with privacy, but don’t expect to see the glasses in stores anytime soon.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.