Biometrics are essential to the long-term success of mobile computing. The obvious place is in security: Swipe your finger instead of typing a password. This is convenient—but worrisome.

Apple’s new iPhone 5s incorporates a fingerprint scanner. The phone’s Touch ID features have been receiving lots of news coverage because it’s from Apple, but it’s not the first fingerprint unlock, not by a long shot. My Motorola Atrix, released in early 2011, had a very effective fingerprint scanner. Laptops and other devices have had those as well for several years.

There are other ways of incorporating biometrics into mobile computing. Wearable bio sensors, like the Fitbit and the FuelBand, are hot holiday gift items: they can keep track of your pulse, sleep pattern, steps and more.

Right now, those devices are used primarily for fitness. But biometrics clearly are part of a multiphase security plan. Imagine having your unique heartbeat electrical pattern unlock your phone!

The best security schemes incorporate “something you have” with “something you know.”

My family has a safe deposit box at a local bank. Instead of asking a bank teller for access to the vault, we now walk over to the vault, place our palms on a reader, and tap out an access code number on a keypad. Click. We’re in. Biometrics.

About Alan Zeichick

Alan Zeichick, founding editor of SD Times, is principal analyst of Camden Associates.