Technalysis Research
Previous Blogs

September 9, 2014
The Password Dilemma

September 8, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk--Driving Flash Forward

September 2, 2014
Smart Connected Devices: A New Forecast

August 26, 2014
Phablets—aka Pocket Computers—Drive New World Order

August 19, 2014
Device Usage Diversity

August 12, 2014
New Life for the PC

August 5, 2014
Hot Items for the Holidays: Large Phones, Notebooks and Smart TVs

July 29, 2014
Smartphones: Life's Remote Control

July 22, 2014
The Joy of Vintage Tech

July 15, 2014
Digital Generation Gap

July 8, 2014
Virtualization Reborn

July 1, 2014
Portable Digital Identities

June 24, 2014
The Future of UI: Contextual Intelligence

June 17, 2014
Moving to Markets of One

June 16, 2014
Insider Extra: Dell and the Battle for Business

June 10, 2014
Screen Overload to Drive Screen-less Devices

June 3, 2014
Apple Drives Vision of Seamless Multi-Device Computing

May 27, 2014
Surface Pro 3: The Future of PCs?

May 22, 2014
Insider Extra: SanDisk: The Many Faces of Flash

May 20, 2014
The Technological Divining Rod

May 13, 2014
Computing in the Cloud

May 6, 2014
Device Usage a Question of Degree

April 29, 2014
The Next Smartphone Battleground: Durability

April 22, 2014
BYOD: A Work in Progress

April 18, 2014
Insider Extra: AMD Back in the Groove

April 15, 2014
The Mobility Myth

April 9, 2014
BYOD Dilemma: Devices vs. Data

April 8, 2014
Insider Extra: Qualcomm's Evolving Story

April 1, 2014
A Wearables Forecast

March 25, 2014
Measuring Success in Wearables? It's Thousands of Thousands

March 24, 2014
Insider Extra: Intel Strategy Moves Forward

March 18, 2014
IOT: Islands of Isolated Things?

March 11, 2014
Wearables Cautionary Tale

March 4, 2014
The New Platform Battle

February 25, 2014
Watch What Happens

February 18, 2014
Talkin' 'bout Touchpads

February 11, 2014
The MultiOS Conundrum

February 4, 2014
Computing Redefined

January 28, 2014
The Apple Problem

January 21, 2014
The 2-in-1s People Might Want

January 14, 2014
The Post Tablet Era

January 7, 2014
The Innovation Asymptote

December 31, 2013
Top 5 2014 Predictions

December 17, 2013
Holiday Shoppers Gifting Themselves

December 10, 2013
Companion Apps

December 3, 2013
Aisle Check

TECHnalysis Research Blog

September 16, 2014
The Wearable-Identity Connection

Two of the hottest topics in technology these days are smart wearable devices and digital identities. The former, thanks in part to last week’s unveiling of the Apple Watch, has captured the attention of nearly everyone recently, while the latter has gained more notoriety recently than anything else, but is poised to be a key issue for years to come. While at first glance the two are unrelated topics, I believe we will see them come together in some very intriguing ways over the next few years.

One of the key characteristics that ties these two concepts together is they’re both very personal. Wearables are the most personal technology device you can own because, by definition, they are designed to fit or be worn somewhere on your body—and you can’t get any more personal than that. In fact, I believe some of the key challenges facing wearable makers is the need to account for this basic, but essential fact. It’s one thing to design something that lots of people want to use and carry with them—it’s something else entirely to design something that millions of individuals are willing to regularly wear. Unless you’re a big believer in standardized uniforms—and all that implies—the idea that lots of people are going to all wear the same wearable strikes me as a bit naïve.

In the case of digital identities, the collection of data that goes into that identity is, again, by definition, as personal as you can get. The challenge here is that we haven’t really seen any great example of products or services that tie all of our information into a coherent, singular form. In fact, some people would argue that it’s better to have information about various aspects of your life—from email and social network site passwords, to your financial information, medical records, friends and family contact info and so much more—kept separate because that makes it harder to piece together all your critical information. (Never mind the fact that just by analyzing all your online activities, many firms probably already have a “scarily” accurate view of you that they’re selling to the highest bidder—that’s a topic for another column on another day…)

The basic assumption here is that none of the elements that would go into a unified digital identity are really safe, so we’re better off spreading that security risk across many individual services. That way, if someone gets one thing—like access to a credit card account—they don’t necessarily have access to all your other key bits of information or personal data, such as your personal photos. While that argument is relatively sound in some ways, it obviously ignores the potential benefits—particularly around convenience and ease-of-use—that a unified approach would clearly offer.

The problem is, one of the critical challenges in putting together a unified type of digital identity service is that you would have to create some kind of “master key” that would unlock the entire treasure trove of your personal data. The potential risks in that scenario are frightening to many people and no one is really confident enough in any single security/authentication mechanism to serve this purpose.

But that is exactly where I believe the wearable/identity connection can, and must, occur. One of the “side” benefits of having a device you wear is that it’s in direct contact with your body. In conjunction with the right sensors, that bodily connection could be used to provide some kind of biometric data to uniquely identify you and serve as a “password-less” automatic means of getting access to your digital identity. Conversely, without that biometric match, access to your digital identity would be denied.

While lots of attention has been focused on fingerprint-based biometric recognition, there are challenges to this technology. In fact, in many cases, such as manual laborers whose fingerprints have worn down, people with certain genetic issues and others, it simply doesn’t work. There are some promising new developments in low-cost iris scanners, as well as mechanisms for matching hand geometry, faces, vein pattern-based recognition and, likely, more to come. In all cases, there are tradeoffs between cost, accuracy and convenience and that will likely lead to the use of several different methods of biometric identification.

Regardless, it seems clear that wearable-identity connection could become extremely important over the next few years and open up a wealth of interesting opportunities for digital identities as well. We’ve yet to see anyone pull together all these aspects into a single solution—no, not even Apple—but I suspect that when it does come together, the impact will be profound.

Here's a link to the original column:

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