back to article R&D white coats at HP Inc will make corporate ID into wearable tech

The consumerisation of wearables has got HP Inc’s chief techie thinking about ways to reach out and touch everyone on the planet. The obvious way to do it? Sex up the corporate name badge, of course. Shane Wall, CTO at the PC and printer monster told us the company is eyeing up the top spot in commercial wearables – though …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "replace the badge with something you are already going to wear today"

    So now we not only have the malarkey around biometrics to contend with, but soon we will also have the corporate garment you have to wear to access your work zone. And said garment will be something you have paid for, but the company will put its stamp on it. And it will be the thing you wore on your first day at work, because obviously. You will be forced to have that garment every single day for the rest of your career at that company.

    Else, even better, the company can just hop over to your house with a portable thingy and take control of your entire wardrobe. Sweet ! Isn't The Future just peachy ?

    A badge has many advantages over any garment : it is easily and quickly washed, it is small and therefor mainly discreet, it imposes nothing on individual clothing preferences and it does not absorb odours. I think that last point is the most important one.

    1. Dave 126

      Re: "replace the badge with something you are already going to wear today"

      Err, HP didn't mention garments.

      FYI, the term 'wearable' in technology is generally taken to mean items that are worn similarly to jewellery (badges around the neck like necklaces or pinned to a shirt like a brooch, items worn around the wrist like a watch), or items such as spectacles or earphones. Whilst the term 'wearable' can encompass items of clothing, that is not its primary meaning in this context (and practically, electronics and washing machines are not natural allies)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    So they want everyone on the planet to wear a badge ?

    Does it come in the shape of a yellow star ? Or maybe a pink triangle ?

    No thanks...

    1. Dave 126

      Re: So they want everyone on the planet to wear a badge ?

      Whaaat? Where did they say that?!

      All they are talking about is a badge or ID card that can authenticate it's proper holder, so that it is of limited use to anyone who finds or steals it. ID badges are common place in workplaces. Since ID badges are generally the same size as a credit card, any technology that works in an ID badge could potentially be ported to a consumer item like a credit card if there is a demand for it.

      A credit card that requires input from its owner to be used? That would answer some fears consumers have about lost or stolen credit cards. Many people are already using the same concept - they can buy things using an object they carry (a mobile phone, via NFC or PayPal or whatever) but to do so requires their fingerprint or passcode to be entered first.

  3. Dave 126

    > It could also be the firm is looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Seriously? Irrespective of HP's 'solution', authentication of employees - or indeed of consumers accessing services - could be improved. The headache people have with passwords is an obvious place to start looking at this problem.

    Obviously though, a name badge (designed to be visible to all) isn't the ideal place for an ersatz RSA dongle.

    The biggest security issue around ID Badges though is cultural - I've worked on sites where we were told again and again to challenge anyone whose badge wasn't visible. Of course, few people did, because to do so would be bad manners...

    1. harmjschoonhoven
      Stop

      @Dave 126

      I've worked on sites where wearing a visible badge was part of the corporate culture.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: @Dave 126

        Me too - it was just wasn't reinforced very often. On the other hand, some people did love filling in Abnormal Occurrence Notifications. To be fair, we did have turnstile gates to get access to site in the first place.

        Other workplaces used badges to unlock doors, but people would often hold the door open for others - good manners again!

        And then there were the workplaces with badge-entry doors, but if you yanked the door hard enough it would open for anyone. The Royal Mail postman knew this trick, which meant he didn't have to wait for a few minutes to be let in!

      2. lafnlab

        Re: @Dave 126

        I sometimes work in hospitals in the US and their accreditation requires all employees to wear badges with their name and photo. The idea is that patients can get the name of the person they are talking to, even if the person doesn't say who they are.

        1. Dave 126

          Re: @Dave 126

          Hospitals are a good place to look at when thinking about ID. Like the military, uniforms are used to denote the role of the employee.

          Also, hospitals are areas where vetted employees and members of public the mix. And hospitals have restricted areas (drug stores etc) and systems.

          We also see special examples of traditional 'wearable technology': nurses wear fob watches, in order to make it easier for them to wash their wrists.

  4. 2460 Something
    Thumb Up

    And in all honesty, it seems a bit silly.

    Is there much more to say about this than the final sentence of the article?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Badges? we don't need no stinking badges...

  6. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    The only wearable from HP I'd be interested in would be a calculator watch. With a longer battery life than the original ones.

  7. David Roberts
    Black Helicopters

    Can't be passed to another person?

    So something more sophisticated than just a card, or even a card with a password. Not like a credit card you can send someone else to the shops with. Fingerprints are allegedly easily fooled by a picture.

    So, need a sample of your genes?

    Can you all say "bio-aware implant" children?

    1. Dave 126

      Re: Can't be passed to another person?

      >Fingerprints are allegedly easily fooled by a picture.

      My fingerprints can tell the difference between a real face and a photograph very easily, thanks! Do you suffer from vibration white finger? ;)

      But seriously, current generation fingerprint scanners can be fooled with a photograph, but you do need a laser printer, acetate sheet, PCB photo-resist and a few hours. Plus a good clear photograph. However, the mouse/mousetrap game is such that next gen scanners will incorporate further hurdles - thermometers, perhaps.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: Can't be passed to another person?

        To clarify, I meant iPhone-type fingerprint scanners can be fooled with readily accessible materials and techniques. I didn't mean all fingerprint scanners, and I didn't make that clear, sorry.

        Spoof scanner, starting with photograph:

        http://arstechnica.com/security/2013/09/touchid-hack-was-no-challenge-at-all-hacker-tells-ars/

        Spoofing scanner starting with an actual fingerprint:

        https://blog.lookout.com/blog/2013/09/23/why-i-hacked-apples-touchid-and-still-think-it-is-awesome/

        Gain access to an iPhone with a $5 wrench:

        https://xkcd.com/538/

  8. Cuddles

    Not really sure what's being said here

    There seem to be two entirely different points being made, neither of which appear particularly useful. Firstly, the idea of your work badge being something you'd wear anyway. That simply doesn't make the slightest bit of sense. Wearing your work ID when not at work can be anything from just stupid right up to a firing offence; having it as a separate thing you only wear at work is part of the fundamental design. And even aside from that, there isn't a single thing I wear every day - I change clothes regularly and don't wear jewellery. Exactly what item could a "smart" badge replace, other than a regular ID?

    Secondly, the idea of the badge containing some kind of authentication. This isn't such a bad idea in theory, but it's difficult to see how it could be implemented. An ID badge is dumb - generally just a simple, unpowered RFID chip, probably along with a picture and other relevant information for a visual check. This means it doesn't require power or wear out in any way, and it doesn't require the user to do anything other than get close enough to a powered reader. Fingerprint readers, other biometrics, passwords, and pretty much anything else all eliminate both of those advantages. Smart badges offer a minor security benefit at great cost in both money and constant inconvenience to everyone who has to use and maintain them. Simply hiring a couple of extra security staff to inspect badges would be both cheaper and probably more effective.

    @Dave126

    "But seriously, current generation fingerprint scanners can be fooled with a photograph"

    Most of them can't because they don't actually look at fingerprints at all, but rather the pattern of blood vessels underneath. This not only makes it much harder to copy them, but also requires an actual living finger and so eliminating most Hollywood-style shenanigans. Still far from foolproof, but it's nowhere near as easy as simply owning a camera and printer.

    1. Dave 126

      Re: Not really sure what's being said here

      >"But seriously, current generation fingerprint scanners can be fooled with a photograph"

      >>Most of them can't because they don't actually look at fingerprints at all, but rather the pattern of blood vessels underneath.

      @Cuddles - you are quite right, I am sure that 'proper' fingerprint scanners can't be easily fooled. My comment was based on the iPhone-level of fingerprint scanner which demonstrably can be fooled with the method I referred to - probably because a trade-off was made against its security in order to make it small. Because we were talking about the possibility of a fingerprint scanner on a badge, I thought that the small scanners made for phones was a fairer comparison than scanners made for door panels etc.

      I also expected below-the-skin scanners to make their way into phones in due course (the mouse/mousetrap game).

      1. Dave 126

        Re: Not really sure what's being said here

        >There seem to be two entirely different points being made, neither of which appear particularly useful.

        'Seem' appears to be the operative word - I found it quite a hard article to parse, with quotes interspersed by the Reg's comments, and I couldn't find a link to a source, or even a mention of the event or whatever at which these HP guys were speaking.

        However, I personally didn't get the impression that they were advocating 'off duty' work ID badges. There was mention of replacing cards "with something we wear anyway" - suggesting something like a watch that generates RSA codes, or a bracelet with a RFID tag. Possibly. I for one would like a link to the source material to see if the HP quotes make more sense in a different context.

        Orbital Mind: "Ah, you're closest. Could you inform the ambassador that he's talking to his brooch?"

        - Iain M Banks, Look to Windward, in which someone at a party has left their clip-on terminal at home.

        1. Cuddles

          Re: Not really sure what's being said here

          "My comment was based on the iPhone-level of fingerprint scanner"

          Fair enough. I would hope something created specifically for a secure work environment would use something a bit better, but maybe I'm giving them too much credit.

          "However, I personally didn't get the impression that they were advocating 'off duty' work ID badges. There was mention of replacing cards "with something we wear anyway" - suggesting something like a watch that generates RSA codes, or a bracelet with a RFID tag."

          Well that's really what I'm confused about. "Something we wear anyway" quickly becomes "something we only wear at work" when it's mandatory to wear it at work and at best a bad idea to wear it anywhere else. It doesn't matter if it's a watch, an item of jewellery or clothing, or anything else, as long as it's something I only wear at work it's no different from a normal ID badge. Why would people be any happier with their work-bracelet than their work-badge, especially since bracelets, watches and the like tend to be fashion accessories and a work-mandated one shared by everyone is unlikely to appeal to all? It doesn't solve any problem, it's just a differently shaped badge.

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