Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg July 8, 2016

Wearable authentication: Trends and opportunities

Andrea Bianchi and Ian Oakley


Wearables are a rapidly emerging device category with wide-reaching use scenarios. The novel form factors and broad potential of this technology pose new security challenges: devices are typically on and close to a user. Furthermore, while they possess limited input and output channels, they often feature rich sensing, computing and communication capabilities. Due to this novel context, this paper argues that researchers need to reconsider the functional, technical and social aspects of authenticating, or securely establishing a user's identity, for wearable devices. This paper contributes to ongoing work on this topic by reviewing wearable authentication schemes according to the traditional classification of authentication via tokens, passwords or biometrics. The goal of this review is to provide an illustrated overview of key advances in the area over the past decade that covers a variety of form factors (wristbands, glasses, jewelry, etc) and modes of operation (single or multi-factor authentication, on one or multiple devices). Finally, we tie the review together by identifying four key themes that will drive future research: the raise of implicit authentication that requires no dedicated user action; the use of wearable devices for authentication in conjunction with other systems; the potential and richness of current available technology and tools for wearable devices and; the importance and challenges of maintaining privacy and security in wearable contexts.


Andrea Bianchi was supported by the MSIP, Korea, under the G-ITRC support program (IITP-2016-R6812-16-0001) supervised by the IITP. Ian Oakley was supported by the 2015 Research Fund (1.150128.01) of UNIST (Ulsan National Institute of Science & Technology).

Received: 2016-2-18
Accepted: 2016-6-3
Published Online: 2016-7-8
Published in Print: 2016-10-28

©2016 Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston