Realizing the Security Needs of In-store Apps

I am adventurous when it comes to e-commerce, mobile wallets, social sign-in and all things that support digital marketing. I’ve had to be as I am responsible for pushing these industries forward. As consumers we love to take advantage of free email, instant messaging apps and news. And as marketers and business owners we welcome this barter system established to offer such services in exchange for the ability to provide advertising to such consumers, which is increasingly more targeted and hopefully more relevant to each individual.

Behind the scenes my own little fears sometimes drive me to use my American Express credit card for a purchase with a retailer I don’t know well, I almost never use my debit card as I’m not sure it’s really as well covered from fraud as my other credit cards are, and I have a specific email account I use for websites just in case they trade it or sell it. So, while adventurous, I still worry about too many of my preferences getting out, wonder how it could impact my ability to get a life insurance policy at some point in the future, or worse yet how data about me and my lifestyle could impact my ability to stay employed. But, I fundamentally believe that it is human nature to barter. The only true currency is trading goods and services of like value, … and sometimes, this may require a few participants to complete the transaction.

“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.” – Tim Cook

As Apple Pay was announced this month I smiled with enthusiasm. Many mornings I grab a bagel and coffee at my neighborhood café that uses Square. I rarely have cash and being able to just walk over with my mobile phone and the Square Wallet app is refreshing. I still have to find my keys so that I can get back into my apartment, but even that step could be eliminated if I were to get a wireless door lock.

Recently I joined Intel to drive product strategy for solutions enabling retailers to create the next revolution in the shopping experience leveraging the Internet of Things. I envision experiences where the physical store knows who I am, finds my favorite store associate who then is reminded of all my tastes and preferences, and is able to help me find what I was looking for or simply didn’t know I needed. The purchase event will of course be frictionless. As I investigate the details of how the store will detect me, how applications will look up who I am and pull back incredibly detailed information, and expose it to devices in the store such as a tablet laying on a counter or a digital sign near the dressing room, it’s become chillingly obvious that my traditional application development architectures are inadequate.

As I think about hackers carefully placing their own beacons and sensors in the store calling the same APIs as the retailers business application or simply monitoring this data as it’s passed around the room, I see now that as mobile application developers we have to begin to understand how to know our environment, challenge that it is secure and verify that only our own apps are engaged with such personal and sensitive insights of our customers. I challenge every developer to learn more about gateways that can monitor your physical space, tokenization systems that can minimize the actual storage and transfer of sensitive data and ultimately keep in mind that your customer is whispering a secret into your ear and none of us wants to be known as someone that can’t keep a secret.

I appreciate and was inspired by Tim Cook’s (Apple’s CEO) message on protecting such things with all these new capabilities from Apple Pay to the Apple Watch and iPhone 6. I am also very excited about continuing to push the industry forward while knowing Intel has created some incredible solutions to support developers everywhere helping my neighborhood café know I’m walking over to pick up my bagel and coffee.