October 30–31, 2016: Training
October 31–November 2, 2016: Tutorials & Conference
New York, NY

How Plantronics honed its headsets to create secure wearables

Erik Perotti (Plantronics)
2:10pm–2:50pm Wednesday, 11/02/2016
Bridging business and security
Location: Trianon Ballroom Level: Intermediate

Prerequisite knowledge

  • A basic understanding of biometrics (useful but not required)

What you'll learn

  • Understand the countless lessons, pitfalls, and opportunities Plantronics has encountered on its journey around security
  • Explore Plantronics's process and experiences in authentication tokens and biometrics


The IoT and wearables are hot topics everywhere from the board room to the classroom, and fortunately for Plantronics, many of the core enabling technologies for wearable tech success are the bread and butter of its organization. From capacitive sensors to all-day ergonomics and a strong enterprise bent, Plantronics fortuitously had many of the ingredients to build a novel authenticator right at its fingertips.

Plantronics evolves its headsets to stay current with the flood of sensors and capabilities emerging in the wearables space. Erik Perotti highlights the countless lessons, pitfalls, and opportunities Plantronics has encountered on its journey around security and explores Plantronics’s process and experiences in authentication tokens, biometrics, and beyond.

The security seed was planted a few years ago within the innovation team. After adding a secure element to a prototype device, Plantronics joined the FIDO Alliance with an open mind. But early proofs of concept (PoCs) were awkward—using NFC to tap your headset meant a break in our paradigm—so Plantronics enabled BTLE in its device, leading to Plantronics coauthoring the second-factor (U2F) specification with one of the largest tech companies in the world.

To try to explain this to attendees at CES 2016, Plantronics built a door and used voice commands to open and close it. And it worked. “But does it recognize your voice versus someone else’s?” was a constant question. Well, no. Given the frequency of requests and unhappy looks on people’s faces, it was evident that this was the next challenge.

Now, we find ourselves with a headset that people are already wearing, with easier, credible second-factor authentication and a rudimentary, passable first-factor token.

Experts disagree about the caliber of various biometrics; maybe a thumbprint or retinal scan is good, but a voiceprint—not so much. However, Erik shows how the strengths and weaknesses become far more blurred in practice, challenging you to look at the world of biometrics and think about the strengths and weaknesses of each approach in more detail. Erik concludes by highlighting unexpected opportunities. How is a verbal utterance different than a password? Perhaps environmental noise is impactful; maybe the authenticator could randomly pick a security question and authenticate the user rather than storing some cryptic password in the cloud or on a host device?

Enhanced security may come from unexpected places. By ideating with existing partners, evolutionary change provides seamless improvements with less end-user disruption.

Photo of Erik Perotti

Erik Perotti


Erik Perotti is senior manager of new ventures on Plantronics’s Innovation team, where his core mission is the ongoing analysis and evolution of online user engagement, resulting in end-user interface experiences that are intuitive, engaging, and purposeful. Erik’s background includes 20 years of dedicated work developing user interfaces, prototypes, and web interactions. Erik is profoundly interested in the evolution of the Internet as a communications platform. His current focus includes the investigation and assessment of the wearable device space and how to best harness WiFi, wearables, and web behavior—or a combination of all three—to enrich online conversations. Erik holds a master’s degree in human computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and holds multiple patents in mobile and web interaction innovation. Prior to joining Plantronics, Erik held key roles addressing user experience management for several Silicon Valley-based enterprise software firms. In his free time, Erik enjoys spending beach time with his family near his home in Santa Cruz, CA.