Technology

Is Your Body a Password?

Biometrics – data related to your physical body. Fingerprints, voice recognition, brain patterns… I have been seeing more and more biometric products in the market lately, often tied to wearables (Fitbit, Jawbone, and even Apple to name a few). I’ve even started to see clothing with integrated biometric sensors.

But going beyond the usefulness of inwardly insight, I am now starting to see biometrics replace the password. Look at Apple, a former employer of mine, with Touch ID. MasterCard, my current employer, even made a minority investment and product pilot in the space. But can this unique information replace passwords?

Traditionally, authentication has required two attributes: a username (which may or may not be public) establishing a user identity, and a password (hopefully known only by the individual) which allows access to that identity’s account. I would argue that biometrics replace the former of these two, but cannot solely replace the latter.

Think about it: what happens if someone steals or spoofs your biometric data? You can’t just log in and change your fingerprint or your retina image – they are forever unique to you (barring any unusual surgeries). Biometric identity will play a significant part of authentication in the future, but as a different type of user identification and part of multi-factor authentication.

What are your thoughts on biometrics and security? Tweet at me with #biometrics to let me know!

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Entrepreneurship, Technology

Oh Where is My Wearable

In the next 12 months, I plan on buying a smart watch. Why? Currently we have companies giving us what I like to call the “standard smart watch experience”: a wearable digital screen with mobile computing power. Devices from Samsung, Pebble and the like are the natural evolutionary relatives to devices like the Casio Databank from the 80s. Unfortunately, not a whole lot has changed between the two eras (at least not enough for a stronger consumer proposition). On a separate but parallel development track, companies like Jawbone, Fitbit and Nike are now selling wearable devices that enable consumers to better understand their fitness habits (or lack thereof). With these and similar technologies like Google Glass, which I purchased and returned earlier this year, we are still at the beginning stages of this phenomenon.

So where are the future growth opportunities? Much like any nascent product category, we are about to see some accelerated development in the smart watch space, which is good news for consumers. The International Data Corp is predicting a significant uptick in the number of wearable units sold over the next few years. The hardware manufacturers in the space will continue to add new hardware components, similar to what we are currently seeing between Apple’s iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S series. There won’t be much room for new hardware entrants, but with unified operating systems like the upcoming Android Wear SDK, applications will still be a terrific opportunity. The future of wearables is all about information convergence, particularly with real-time and personalized data. For consumers and startups alike, we should get excited about the future of wearables. At least until they turn into implantables..

Keep the conversation going on Twitter with #wearable!

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