It's had a good run, but the password's time is up. Remembering a unique unlock code for dozens of websites and apps is no longer very practical or very safe, and many different companies are exploring what comes next. One of those companies is Clef, which has developed a two-step verification system that uses an animated wave on your phone to confirm your identity.
Two-step verification, now available on accounts with Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox and many others, adds an additional security measure on top of a password. But existing methods typically rely on numerical codes and can be time-consuming to configure, which is why Clef thinks its new, streamlined approach has the edge. The technology is currently powering more than 40,000 sites and the company says it's now targeting larger organizations after securing US$1.6 million in investment funding.
From the user end, you simply wave your phone at the screen and you're in (though a PIN or Touch ID confirmation is required initially). It can work over Wi-Fi or cell networks (handy when one is available but not the other) and as a fallback it's possible to scan the phone screen using a laptop camera. There are no codes to remember and there's nothing to type in: The unique wave generated by your phone confirms that you are who you say you are.
"No weak passwords, frustrating tokens, or clunky dongles," promise the founders of Clef, which is based in Oakland, California. There's also the option to securely log out of your accounts with a single tap on your smartphone, should you spot any suspicious activity or suspect that someone else has been able to log into a site or app as you.
Clef is far from the only company looking to revolutionize the login process. In recent months and years we've seen a wearable that uses your heartbeat as a password, an iris-scanning gadget to log you in securely and various alternatives to the mobile phone PIN.
Watch the video below for a walkthrough of how Clef works.