Many people were surprised when Apple purchased fingerprint sensor maker AuthenTec last month for a mere USD $356 million, landing itself as one of the biggest mergers the company has ever initiated. Security experts among you may have been less shocked, knowing the company has a considerable number of patents on fingerprint sensors, touchchips and other security technologies.
Based on this, can we expect that next-generation Apple devices will feature fingerprint recognition capabilities?
The purchase of AuthenTec may seem rushed which is prompting speculation that the deal was made to secure production and engineering efforts in time for an upcoming hardware launch. This may be true, but it could be just as likely that Apple was seizing an available opportunity before one of their competitors did. It may also have little to do with existing developments from the acquired company and everything to do with potential: what patents do they have? what was the next generation of innovation being developed?
I think is is safe to assume it has something to do with new new Passbook digital wallet functionality rolling out in the upcoming iOS 6 update. Security is going to be front-of-mind when Apple is dealing with digital payments and the storage of tickets, coupons and loyalty cards.
Unfortunately, fingerprint recognition can be frustrating technology for end users. Anybody who has used a sensor of this type to lock and unlock their laptop knows that it can sometime take more than a few swipes of your finger before it gets a good read and lets you in.
The geek in me does like the idea of making my smartphone or tablet a little more like a gadget from Mission Impossible and I think it may work well as part of a two-stage authentication mechanism for transactions that really should be secure –consider how nice it would be to be able to give your children the password to unlock the iPad, but require your fingerprint to make a purchase in the App Store so it requires your presence and attention.