Passwords be Gone!

This post was originally featured on HIStalk

One of the least-talked about aspects of Google Glass is the proximity sensor. It’s extremely powerful and will change healthcare workflows.

Glass knows when the user takes the device on and off, meaning that the user has to authenticate only once per wear. Contrast once per wear with traditional computing platforms that require users to type in 2-3 passwords to unlock the device and access the EHR. Every clinical professional I know types their password in at least 30 times per day. On Glass, they will log in once per day, or perhaps twice if they decide to take Glass off for lunch.

Of course this begs the question — how does one type in a password on Glass? Glass doesn’t exactly provide the most robust input options. People won’t type passwords at all. A lot of Glass security developers are experimenting with asking users to take a picture of an instantly-generated QR code on the user’s phone. They are modeling this authentication mechanism after how users configure Glass to join Wi-Fi networks.

This is silly and overcomplicated. Why not just ask the user to repeat a programmatically generated sentence (one that couldn’t have been pre-recorded), and cross reference the user’s voice? Children’s diaries have implemented primitive forms of this technology for over a decade. Much more robust voice-authentication libraries exist. I’m sure developers such as Silica Labs are building voice-driven authentication solutions that other Glass startups can implement. This is a significant problem with an obvious solution that every Glass app must deal with. That screams that the function should be outsourced and licensed. Sell pickaxes during a gold rush.

The power of authentication isn’t limited to Glass itself. Once a user is logged in, Glass can authenticate other devices on behalf of the user via Bluetooth. That means that an authenticated user on Glass could auto-authenticate against any other service on any other platform. Glass — the most secure, personal, and intimate computer — would become the authentication tool for the all other computers. That simple use alone is a compelling enough reason for hospitals to purchase Glass units for every employee.

There are lots of companies selling proprietary, single sign-on authentication hardware mechanisms, but they will be just as expensive, if not more so, than Glass. Glass will be cheaper than almost everyone expects. Coupled with Glass apps that deliver real clinical operational value, Glass will streamline virtually every human-computer interaction in healthcare.

It’s a good time to be a healthcare Glass startup. There are incredible opportunities for Glass. The iPhone App Store just hit its fifth birthday, and at least 75 percent of doctors are using smartphones at the point of care. Glass will change healthcare in ways that we can’t even think of yet.

Healthcare Glass startups, make yourselves known. Join Stained Glass Labs, list yourself with theGoogle Glass tag on AngelList, and engage with the healthcare Glass startup community.