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Biometric Watch Grants Access to Encrypted Data

LAS VEGAS -- Two-factor authentication, or using multiple methods to verify a user's identity, has become an important security strategy. Usually it involves a password and a trusted device (example: a phone you've authorized), but your digital identity and authorization could live on your wrist. SmartSafe, a new product from French startup Ionosys, combines a watch and a fingerprint reader to provide a new and intriguing level of biometric authentication.

At CES 2015, Ionosys CEO Stephane Blondeau showed us how his company's innovative security system works. He first put on the wrist piece, which he called "Ionoki," and then swiped his finger on a special fingerprint reader dubbed the "Ionogo." Once the reader verified his print, he tapped the watch against an NFC transmitter in its base. Blondeau told us that users need to reswipe their fingers every time they put on the watch.

He then showed how, after the watch has been authorized by a successful finger swipe, you can tap it against an NFC reader that's attached to (or part of) your computer to log into secure websites and software. Since it uses NFC to communicate, the watch could also be made to work with a mobile device such as a phone or tablet.

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You might expect the watch to be all function and no form, but you'd be wrong. The wristpiece looks quite attractive, with a long leather band and a sleek curved chassis. It's not a smartwatch, but it does provide the time.

Because passwords are so easily stolen or guessed, large businesses have long used physical tokens such as key fobs to help improve security. However, SmartSafe stands out by making that token a fashion piece and using biometrics to make sure the right person is wearing it.

Blondeau said his company is just launching SmartSafe and hopes to get business clients on board. Considering the utility of his solution, we'd like to see this kind of watch authentication available for consumer services such as online banking and shopping.