The smart watch is now moving into a new market – IT security. By using the wearer’s biometric data, French startup Ionosys believes it can reduce the risk of identity theft to a strict minimum.

[CES Unveiled Paris] Wrist-Worn Biometric Security Key under Development

The widespread and growing range of IT security risks that have arisen in parallel with the expansion of computerisation and digital data storage is a major concern to companies. Security procedures have been stepped up to deal with the threat but they have become increasingly cumbersome, and – whether we are talking about randomly-chosen passwords that are almost impossible to remember or intrusion detection software – many reports on the subject make the observation that IT security gaps are still far too common. Now French startup Ionosys has come up with a solution that is both simple and effective. A retinal scanner to be mounted on electronic devices? A fingerprint recognition device? No, this solution is more manageable and more reliable: a watch or bracelet worn on the wrist which registers the wearer’s biometric data and transmits it to electronic devices requiring access ID.

Futuristic but down-to-earth

The Ionosys team started out from a simple observation. However sophisticated and hard-to-get-around a security device may be, it is only useful if it can be integrated into normal human behaviour. If the device is no more than an inactive object, it can be swapped, mislaid or lost, quite apart from any malicious intent on the part of others. From the inky stamp on the arm at the concert hall door to the security badge pinned to your chest, physical signage on individual people can still be an effective method of identification. Ionosys’ approach follows this line of thinking. Wearable technologies are now in vogue, whether for mobile payments or a public transport pass, so it seems perfectly logical to follow this trend to create IT security processes. The French fledgling firm is therefore developing its solution along these lines, using a machine-to-machine approach, automating communications between devices, combined with NFC technology to enable secure wireless data exchange. With a matching sensor installed in our tablet or PC, our wrist-worn device will draw on our biometric data (such as heart rate, though this still remains to be decided) to create a personal ‘biometric password’ that provides access to protected areas or confidential information.

Security device rather than smart watch

The product being developed by Ionosys is in bracelet form but, despite similarities with the range of products on the market, this innovative device is not designed to compete with the existing array of smart watches. This is understandable given the somewhat half-hearted consumer enthusiasm that greeted the appearance of mass-market smart watch technologies. Asco-founder and marketing director Anthony Le Pichon explains: “We don’t want to be in the smart watch market, we see ourselves as a player in the IT security smart objects market.” Looking at what has already been done with USB sticks, i.e. equipping them to provide secure data transmission when they are plugged into a digital device, the Ionosys watch takes this idea further, combining it with secure and effective user identity recognition. So in spite of its apparent positioning as a sort of smart watch, the Ionosys product could well find success by enabling a drastic reduction in IT security expenditure, and so become a decisive factor in driving penetration of what would then be no longer seen as just a mass market gadget, in the same way that smartphones have become an essential part of our way of life. The company’s official goal lies with IT security – bringing about “a disruptive change in behaviour using a watch [...] which will raise people’s interest in their personal security,” as Anthony Le Pichon puts it. However, it would be surprising if this smart objects initiative did not help to set a trend and engender a longer-term boost to the smart watch market.


By Quentin Capelle