There’s a new online language growing fast, and as well as accurately and concisely conveying emotion, it could also hold the key to improving the security of online financial services and everyday banking apps. It’s not like any spoken language on any continent, and nor is it an obscure, heavily punctuated digital code.

Rather, it is the prolific “emoji”, a colourful, character-sized image used either in place of or to garnish the traditionally text-based content of text messages, emails, websites and social media updates.

According to research by Bangor University, the emoji is currently the fastest language growing in the UK, with 72% of 18-25 year olds claiming to find it easier to put their feelings across using emoji rather than words.

Now, financial services software provider Intelligent Environments has developed the world’s first “Emoji password” for consumers logging into banking applications. It purports to be more mathematically secure than traditional numerical passcodes, as well as combatting the problem of forgotten pin numbers after it was revealed that a third of people surveyed in the UK have difficulty recalling them.

Citing the work of Mind Map technique creator and memory expert Tony Cuzan, it is explained that “the Emoji Passcode plays to humans’ extraordinary ability to remember pictures, which is anchored in our evolutionary history. We remember more information when it’s in pictorial form, and that’s why the Emoji Passcode is better than traditional PINs.”

There’s nothing new about this idea: from Egyptian hieroglyphs to Da Vinci’s annotated notes, pictures have always had a role to play in the way we communicate, remember and learn. The feature promises to be intuitive, and could well ensure that online users are less vulnerable to attack from hackers, who as well as phishing techniques, can more easily infiltrate pin codes based around birthdays, wedding anniversaries or other significant dates.

However, there are still predicted to be some problems. One cyber security expert has warned that the introduction of emojis could render users more confused. There is more room for ambiguity than with letters or numbers, and in any case, the method could not be immediately extended to ATM’s and retail outlets.

You can find out more about Trustmarque’s work to empower the financial services sector with new technologies such as cloud computing and Business Intelligence here.