Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Could an '#iWatch' kill passwords? (speculation)

I've been enjoying the new iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite betas and look forward to the imminent public release as early as next week. I've also been dreaming about the fabled iWatch idea and wondering about just how smart Apple can be with the technology ecosystem that's unfolding. For example

  • What's the betting that an iWatch includes the same Touch ID fingerprint authentication that the iPhone 5S has? Once the device is strapped to my wrist and I've authenticated with my fingerprint, there'd be no need to check my identity again, unless I take off the watch - when it would lock again automatically, requiring a new fingerprint check to unlock. Brilliant!
  • Wouldn't it be great if the watch could then wirelessly authenticate me to my nearby iOS and OS X device(s)? That's something that could easily be accomplished using the Bluetooth Low Energy or WiFi communications capability that iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite are using for the 'continuity' and 'handover' features; along with the secure design of Keychain Access...

  • I guess the feature should be optional; but I think many of us would value the convenience of not having to enter a passcode into a phone, or type a password to unlock a computer. And it'd be secure: remember, the 'iWatch' has me authenticated with my fingerprint, and I remain authenticated unless/until I take the watch off. At that point, my watch and all my nearby devices get locked; and my devices get locked (with the passcode/password login enabled) as soon as my watch moves out of 'nearby' wireless range. 
  • Once I'm logged in to my iOS and OS X device(s) then Keychain Access saves me having to remember endless complex username and password combinations for my web and other services. And I trust it, along with iTunes, with some of my payment card details, too. All that is at risk, though, if someone's able to bypass my 4-digit passcode on the phone, or the password to my Macbook. The iWatch + Touch ID could add a really secure front end to my private information, making it much, much harder for my password and card details to fall into the wrong hands.
  • We already have a feel for how good the 'continuity' and 'handover' features of the iOS 8 + OS X Yosemite combination can be: it's great to start an email on the iPhone and finish it up on the iPad; or get map directions on the Macbook and transfer them to the phone; or carry on reading in iBooks, picking up where I left off from one device to another... It seems a natural extension of this usefulness to move beyond the cumbersome and 'broken' passcode/password system. And this 'simple' combination of technology that Apple already has available, when introduced to the hoped-for 'iWatch', means that Apple's really well poised to introduce the kind of usability innovation and elegance that they're renowned for. And save us endless hours of typing in passwords.
I, for one, am hoping for this: it's one sure-fire way to help me to justify the expense of a new device to replace my perfectly functional choice of existing watches.

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