Pretty soon, your fitness band won’t just track your steps, it could also help you log in to your Windows 10 PC. Microsoft recently announced it would soon extend Windows Hello capabilities to third parties. During Computex on Wednesday, Microsoft showed off using the Microsoft Band and other wearables to unlock a Windows 10 computer, as first reported by The Verge.
The new feature is part of an addition to the Windows Hello Companion Device Framework. We got our first look at the new framework in early April when Microsoft posted some developer documentation online. The basic idea is that when you are near your computer, a companion device like a fitness band or smartwatch can pair up with your PC and authenticate your presence. This can happen any number of ways, including over USB, Bluetooth, NFC, or by performing a special gesture—hardware permitting.
The new wearable-based authentication can also do more than just let you log in. Via Windows Hello, the wearable could also authenticate a purchase at the Windows Store or be used to log in to a website using the upcoming Hello integration with Microsoft Edge.
Why this matters: Figuring out authentication that goes beyond passwords and PINs is a current focus of many technology companies, including Microsoft. Windows Hello already supports biometric authentication via fingerprint readers and retina scans, but not all PCs are equipped with this technology. That’s where the new Hello companion framework comes in as it allows another “password-less” method of authentication for users. It may not stop at just wearables either. Smartphones could also offer Hello compatibility via an app for phone-based authentication.
It’s not clear when the new Windows Hello compatibility for wearables will roll out, but it’s a good bet this will show up with the Anniversary Update when many other new features are expected to land on Windows 10.