updated 05:30 pm EDT, Sun September 8, 2013
Apple pairs biometrics, NFC for security
A recently revealed European patent shows that Apple has been working on combining a fingerprint scanner with near-field communication technology, in a move that could catapult the Cupertino company to the forefront of mobile security. The patent describes an "electronic device with shared near field communications and sensor structures," and it came to light due to Patently Apple. At least one model of the next iPhone is widely expected to integrate a fingerprint sensor as a security measure, but Apple's patent seems to indicate that it is looking beyond just unlocking a phone.
The technology discussed in the patent seems to align very well with leaks and reports indicating that the next iPhone will pack a fingerprint sensor in and around the home button. An illustration in the patent, in fact, shows just that sort of implementation.
The patent goes on to discuss the ways of leveraging the NFC-biometric pairing. It lays out as examples wireless lock functions, security applications, wireless data synching, pairing with headphones, and interacting with vending machines. It also mentions what has become a holy grail of sorts for NFC: secure wireless payments.
Over the last several years, a number of companies have integrated NFC technology into their devices, partially with the aim of those devices being used as a sort of mobile wallet. Google has continually pushed for its Google Wallet service to be available on NFC-enabled phones. The search giant, though, has continually met opposition from wireless carriers, who are pushing their own standard.
Many observers have noted that Apple, with its hundreds of millions of iTunes accounts and accompanying credit card numbers, is in a prime position to enter the mobile payment segment. The iPhone maker, though, has steered clear of NFC, with some opining that security concerns in the technology were the reason Apple has avoided it. Pairing the wireless technology with a biometric sensor, though, could do a good deal to lessen security problems.