The big story, in terms of a technology that is here and that consumers seem to actually want, is super-thin ultrabook laptops that contain Intel-produced processors. And the folks at Intel tell me they don't just want to provide users with a faster, lighter-weight computing experience; they also want to make it safer and easier to shop online.
The first generation of ultrabooks, featuring Intel's "Sandy Bridge" processors all also provide the user with the ability to opt into an identity protection feature that will allow users to register their computers so that online retailers who have already registered will be able to verify that the person making that purchase is the person on that computer.
So if you go to make a purchase on eBay and you've opted into the identity protection feature, eBay's system would ping your laptop and get a unique, random code in response. If that code matches what it gets from the ID protection server, the purchase continues uninterrupted. That code is also only valid for a few seconds, so even if an ID thief could somehow harness it, he would not be able to use it for future purposes.
And if the code does does not match, the user will receive a text message with another code that can be entered manually. So even if the person has your credit card, they would also need your phone to make that purchase.
The next generation of ultrabooks, coming toward the end of 2012, feature Intel's Ivy Bridge processor, which will include Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that would allow you to swipe your NFC-enabled credit card over a portion of the ultrabook and pay instantly.
Even though Intel isn't showing this tech on the floor here at CES, it has announced a partnership with MasterCard's PayPass system that would allow you to pay instantly with your card, and eventually with an NFC-enabled smartphone that contains your banking information.
And once again, if you wish to use the card on someone else's NFC-enabled ultrabook -- or if an ID thief attempts to do so -- it will require the manual entering of a randomly generated security code that is texted to the user.
A rep for Intel confirmed to me that while swiping the PayPass card or phone over your laptop auto-populates the fields during the checkout phase, the information is not stored on your computer. So for people who are concerned about saving that info either on their laptop or with an online retailer, something like what Intel and MasterCard are working on could be a step toward making the purchasing process easier and safer.
Of course, until people get their hands on the technology we have no idea how easy or secure this functionality may be.
Here's a demo of the card-swiping technology being used: