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Apple Patents Biometric Security Measures

Apple was granted a patent for a two-step unlock screen feature that integrates higher security through biometrics, and will also aid in improved security measures with respect to e-commerce transactions.


Apple acquired AuthenTec a few months ago, and is now pushing the implementation of their new technology. This, all as Microsoft has just announced their plans to implement biometrics in future Wintel devices. Now the question is: who will be the first to implement this technology in their products to the public first?

The biggest news of all is that Apple plans to bring biometric features to its MacBook line as well as to iDevices. Although the image displays an iPhone, the company says the additional security measures can be implemented into other iDevices as well as notebooks, which in this case is the MacBook line of computers.

Also, the patent relates to techniques for hiding components of the iPhone behind a seamlessly integrated display screen. This display will hide the components while not in use, but expose those desired components when required by the user.

The patent summary reads:

Systems, methods, and devices are disclosed for applying concealment of components of an electronic device. In one embodiment, an electronic device may include a component that is disposed behind a window configured to selectively become transparent or opaque, such as a polymer-dispersed liquid crystal (PLDC) window. The component includes an image capture device, a strobe flash, a biometric sensor, a light sensor, a proximity sensor, or a solar panel, or a combination thereof. Additionally, the electronic device includes data processing circuitry configured to determine when an event requesting that the component be exposed occurs. Furthermore, the electronic device includes a window controller that may control the window to become transparent, to expose the component upon the occurrence of the event requesting that the component be exposed.

The description details Apple's innovation: currently the iPhone can be accessed by "slide to unlock" and soon, an additional security step could be implemented when the biometric reader becomes available. It will require the user to place his/her thumb on the fingerprint reader to unlock the device. As soon as the reader validates the user, the iPhone unlocks and the home screen will be visible.

In addition, Apple is playing around with face and retinal scan recognition for increased security, to be especially tailored for e-commerce transactions. The description details a situation where you would unlock the device by sliding across the screen and the subsequent step would require the user to look at a certain point on the screen to unlock their device. Once the software validates the user, the home screen will appear. Another situation is when you shop using your iPhone: to finalize a purchase, an additional security measure could be used such as face or retinal scan recognition. A message would appear, such as, "This site requires user authentication to complete your shopping cart transaction" and would guide you through the necessary steps. The user will then be required to look at the screen for a specified amount of time and the e-commerce transaction will finalize once the software validates the user.

This enhanced form of security for mobile and online shopping transactions could help to increase personal security for users and aid in the prevention of identity theft. What do you think? Too much security, or about time? [Via Patently Apple]

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