I was re-entering my password into our NowTV box in the bedroom when it occurred to me. Authentication sucks on the Internet of Things (IoT). The problem is you have a simple device with minimal extras. On the NowTV you have a basic remote that looks like this:

Can you imagine entering a password with a length of over 20 that’s a mixture of numbers, special characters and both upper and lower case characters? Now imagine changing that password. Regularly.

If you have to press the arrows 5 times per character, that’s over 100 presses! That’s insane!

So, what’s the solution? Well I think the technology already exists. And PayPal already had it patented. QR codes. Not sure if PayPal had thought about using it for IoT, I suspect they only thought about using it as a way of paying. So you have a QR code on the door then you scan it via the PayPal app, pay, then get your tickets sent to your Wallet to the club. Or scanning the code from the receipt to pay the bill.

For IoT, the device would generate a encryption key, this would be re-generated when the device is wiped, for example when it is resold, the device would then display a QR code, via a small E-Ink display or such, that would allow pairing (or such) between the device and a user account – via a internet connection to a web service. Unpairing the device from the user account would revoke the encryption key requiring the device to regenerate a new key (and a new QR code). However wiping the device would destroy the encryption key but wouldn’t revoke the key, this would cause some housekeeping to occur. Perhaps trying to unpairing first, however it shouldn’t be dependent on a internet connection to a web service in order to work. If the hard reset button is pressed, it must destroy the encryption key regardless if the unpairing fails or not. It must force this.

It’ll be interesting to see if PayPal expands then authentication  business beyond just for payments in the future.