Apple Watch

Apple Watch Heart Rate Monitor – Courtesy of Bloomberg

The Apple Watch is on the horizon. Some are learning how to not be jerks while using your Apple Watch, while others are researching what apps to purchase. Most of all, Apple fans are clamoring to get their hands on Apple’s new wearable. However, a prominent thoughts on everyone’s mind is regarding the future of wearable technology and where it fits into the ecosystem.

Smartwatches thus far have struggled to find their true identity, and for good reason. When viewed as an extension of your smartphone on your wrist, the benefits of minimal. Many reviewers are mentioning the benefit of not getting lost in your phone when notifications arrive or being able to keep an eye on notifications in a more discreet manner. However, do the simple aforementioned benefits really justify a $349 to $17,000 dollar investment? In its current state, my response would be, “No.” However, the Apple Watch represents the merging of technologies in new and different ways leading the way for advancements. The greatest advancement that sticks out in my mind is in the field of authentication.

The heart rate monitor is one of the functional hardware differences from the iPhone. The Apple Watch is always on you, continually monitoring your heart rate. (Every 10 minutes to be exact.) While great for assisting with your fitness goals, the implications of such technology go far beyond tackling our country’s obesity challenges. Your heart beat could become your new key to the ignition of everything.

Your heart beat is as unique as your fingerprint. As a result, a person’s heart beat could be used for authentication purposes. In fact, a smartband already exists known as the Nymi that allows you to authenticate and pay for things using your heartbeat. Karl Martin, CEO of Nymi, further elaborated on the heart beat’s uniqueness in an interview with Forbes:

The position of the heart, the shape of the heart, the size – all have an effect on how that ECG signal [your heart reading] looks,

He goes on to explain how using your heart beat compares to other forms of biometric authentication:

Spoofing a fingerprint can be as easy as lifting someone’s latent prints off a drinking glass but spoofing someone’s ECG, Martin said, would be hard. An attacker would need to almost be in direct physical contact with a target to capture their unique ECG signature. Secondly, they would also have to replicate a human body in order to replay that captured ECG.

The Apple watch also comes loaded with other hardware that could make it an even more effective form of authentication. The NFC chip and Bluetooth sensor could both be used to connect to laptops and computers for the purpose of authenticating a user. Users would then be able to login to their computer and accounts by simply being within the vicinity of their devices while wearing the Apple Watch. 

Having to remember multiple passwords for various accounts and change them on a regular basis is taxing. Logging into an old account is often more dreaded than putting on those pants from 3 years/sizes ago. The potential value proposition of doing away with passwords is a strong one that could get me to say “Yes” to the Apple Watch once and for all.

It’s important to point out that heart rate authentication is not a current feature of the Apple Watch and no announcements have been made by Apple nor App developers at this time. (So don’t expect to be authenticating your Gmail using your heart beat when you finally get your hands on your Apple Watch in the coming days.) The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the technology is there. With the Apple Watch moving towards mainstream adoption (1 million pre-orders day one), the potential for such an app and large-scale adoption of heart rate authentication increase drastically.

What are your thoughts on the prospect of heart rate authentication using the Apple Watch? Would cutting passwords out of your life be enough to justify your purchase of an Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments below.