I'm not sure I want my entire life on a ring I wear on my finger. But Token's pitch for the future of wearables is pretty fascinating: something that acts not as a fitness tracker or notifier, but simply as a secure ID. Sooner or later, it's an angle that other wearables are bound to get deeper into, too.
The Token Ring is the first product made by Token, a company specializing in biometric security (no relation to the old networking term). The ring is made of thick metal and plastic, but inside it has an optical sensor, a fingerprint sensor, and NFC and Bluetooth along with a chip with a secure element inside. It can pay for things. It can unlock things. It's basically a wallet and keychain on a ring.
This isn't a unique idea: smartwatches can already unlock computers using two-factor authentication, and many wearables have contactless payments. But Token's added fingerprint sensor and NFC accessories could expand the range of its security and its unlocking ambition. One ring to...well, you know how the Lord of the Rings quote goes.
Token's unique quality is its fingerprint sensor on the underside. Take it off, and it requires a swipe before it activates again. A rainbow-colored LED pulse shows it recognizes the ID, but a red flash means it was rejected. The $249 ring (roughly £195 or AU$330) comes with a brushed stainless steel finish, but also comes in black rhodium and 14k rose gold ($299 -- £235 or AU$390) finishes.
Token uses gestures as well as near-field. It can do contactless payments, but it can also unlock computers via password: Knock on a table and the ring sends its code to a nearby computer.
How will all this work and be safe? Token is already working with Microsoft to support the ring with Windows 10, as well as Visa and Mastercard for contactless payments.
Using something like Token could remove the need for entering passwords and Token's taking that seriously: The company's working with FIDO Alliance partner companies (a non-profit focusing on interoperability between apps and device) to add support, and the ring is aiming to work with the World Wide Web Consortium's API for strong cryptography in web browsers.
With a separately-sold car plug, Token says its ring can be programmed to work with any car with a smart button: It'll work with car doors now, and eventually the Start button down the road.
It could also work as a door-unlocking key in a home, provided that lock is made by Token for now. I saw it in a set demo and it made the deadbolt unlock, but as a representative of Token admitted, smart locks are a "weird ass" space. Not many of them use NFC at the moment, opting for Bluetooth instead. And iOS 11, for example, doesn't do NFC door unlocking directly from the phone lock screen -- it'll only work in-app. But Token's aim is to make door unlocking more immediate and nearer range.
Token says its ring can used as an HID proximity card, provided your office allowed it to be programmed as an office ID alternative. According to Token, the ring's two-factor authentication is more secure than a standard proximity card. Maybe biometric jewelry could be like the BYO device movement in office smartphones. Maybe not.
Either way, Token Ring raises an interesting proposition: Eventually, wearables are bound to start being wallets, keys and even wearable passcode keychains. It's one step below getting a wearable implant. How secure this ends up being, and how easy to use, remains to be seen. It's an idea that Token is diving into ahead of the pack, but others are bound to follow.
It could be an amazing idea, if it all works. Or, terrifying, if you worry about the idea of one device being your entire secure identity. I'm looking forward to trying it when it arrives in December, but I'm also skeptical about all the pieces coming together.