Mystery Apple 'wireless device' turns out to be door access system

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in General Discussion
One of Apple's "wireless devices" recently submitted for approval by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission turns out to have been a door access system, likely for the Apple Park campus opening in April, according to a manual and photos published by the government body on Sunday.




The manual for model "A1844" -- which supports both NFC and Bluetooth Low Energy -- includes wiring instructions, and in fact says that users have to "present the company provided credential to the reader," Business Insider noted. The system will flash green or red and play a sound to indicate access.

The nature of the hardware is even more explicit in photos, which show a reader attached to a door assembly.




Apple Park -- still under construction -- was designed with the input of former CEO Steve Jobs, and is known to be feature many custom touches, such as extremely large panes of curved glass and the world's biggest natural ventilation system.

It's not known why Apple would want to design its own door system, but a probable reason is extra security, since a first-party system could be more resistant to hacking or tampering. The product is unlikely to be commercial, as while Apple created the HomeKit standard it doesn't sell any smarthome accessories.




In the past few months Apple has submitted two other wireless devices for FCC approval, identified as A1845 and A1846. Because they use related SKUs, it's possible that they're simply variants of the A1844 technology. Speculation has sometimes suggested that they could be things like the fifth-generation Apple TV.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 474member
    I'm not saying the author's wrong, but would Apple require FCC approval for a device they don't ever intend to sell?  
  • Reply 2 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,902member
    williamh said:
    I'm not saying the author's wrong, but would Apple require FCC approval for a device they don't ever intend to sell?  
    Yes, since it's easily over 5 doors.
    § 15.23 Home-built devices.
    (a) Equipment authorization is not required for devices that are not mar- keted[sic], are not constructed from a kit, and are built in quantities of five or less for personal use.


    edit: This website might be easier to digest than trying to read a government PDF.


    edit2: I guess it's time to get out of the habit of denoting the size of a single file when websites are typically considerably larger and not an issue for either network speeds, data caps, or storage capacity. For example, the sparkfun.com webpage comes in at 1.95 MiB, according to Web Inspector in Safari.
    edited March 20 lolliverlolliverseanismorrismattinozpscooter63
  • Reply 3 of 22
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 458member
    So Apple doesn't trust electronic lock makers or is so they can use a different company issued token for different reasons?

    If Apple doesn't trust lock makers why should anyone?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 22
    SoliSoli Posts: 2,902member
    mattinoz said:
    So Apple doesn't trust electronic lock makers or is so they can use a different company issued token for different reasons?

    If Apple doesn't trust lock makers why should anyone?
    I don't think it's a question of not trusting a "lock maker," or even not trusting a commercial computer-based security system, but rather seeing that they have more than enough door security systems to warrant using their own technologies to leverage something that is likely more secure and/or more cost effective.
    lolliverwatto_cobraStrangeDayspscooter63
  • Reply 5 of 22
    calicali Posts: 2,981member
    mattinoz said:
    So Apple doesn't trust electronic lock makers or is so they can use a different company issued token for different reasons?

    If Apple doesn't trust lock makers why should anyone?
    It's Apple being Apple man.
    They're involved with the whole design and have to innovate when the market can't deliver. 
    watto_cobraStrangeDayswilliamlondonpscooter63
  • Reply 6 of 22
    LunnziesLunnzies Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    That is actually an iPhone speaker inside the unit, haha! You can see the slight canal fro where one of the internal Flex cables normally goes when assembled inside a device.
    watto_cobraretrogusto
  • Reply 7 of 22
    viclauyycviclauyyc Posts: 103member
    Shut up and take my money 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 22
    irelandireland Posts: 16,556member
    I'm always inventing myself. I'd like to use this access system Apple developed.
  • Reply 9 of 22
    hagarhagar Posts: 74member
    the smart locks currently available are either very unreliable, very ugly or not compatible with Homekit. No wonder they develop something themselves. Too bad they're not selling it, would do so immediately. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 22
    misamisa Posts: 800member
    hagar said:
    the smart locks currently available are either very unreliable, very ugly or not compatible with Homekit. No wonder they develop something themselves. Too bad they're not selling it, would do so immediately. 
    I think it's more likely that most COTS (Commercial, Off the Shelf) door locks are not terribly secure in practice (See how many hotel systems have been hacked as an example) and existing COTS stuff tends to be rather low-tech. For example, in no specific order:
    - One job I worked at, had a simple RFID entry, but only supervisors had them. Staff had to basically show up 15 minutes before the shift started and wait for someone to come open the door if the store wasn't open.
    - Another job used a barcode into a photo badge
    - Yet another used RFID integrated into a photo badge
    - One condo I lived at used a full sized RFID card

    All of these were pre-2009. 

    The buildings I've used tend to use RFID keyfobs to access specific floors, but that doesn't stop anyone with a working keyfob from piggybacking on another staff member. 

    And that is the security thing I suspect they are trying to solve. Everyone has an iphone with some app, and allows the users to enter/exit any door in the building except those that they're not allowed into, and as a result there is a very precise access log. BT LE is already used as a kind of "indoor GPS". If you've ever been late in a building that uses RFID cards, you'd know that they are livid if you fail to tap in/out.

    The other idea that comes to mind is that Apple might use a "open access" layout, and thus you need an iPhone to open only the high security doors. If you forget your device at home, you're told to go home and get it rather than security handing you a temporary pass. So if you do it this way, every minute is accounted for as you pass through doors. That would allow for much more efficient time auditing, but that has privacy implications.
  • Reply 11 of 22
    larryalarrya Posts: 397member
    I just want this building to get done so they can focus on building things I want to buy again.
    williamlondonevilutionclexman
  • Reply 12 of 22
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 458member
    misa said:
    hagar said:
    the smart locks currently available are either very unreliable, very ugly or not compatible with Homekit. No wonder they develop something themselves. Too bad they're not selling it, would do so immediately. 
    I think it's more likely that most COTS (Commercial, Off the Shelf) door locks are not terribly secure in practice (See how many hotel systems have been hacked as an example) and existing COTS stuff tends to be rather low-tech. For example, in no specific order:
    - One job I worked at, had a simple RFID entry, but only supervisors had them. Staff had to basically show up 15 minutes before the shift started and wait for someone to come open the door if the store wasn't open.
    - Another job used a barcode into a photo badge
    - Yet another used RFID integrated into a photo badge
    - One condo I lived at used a full sized RFID card

    All of these were pre-2009. 

    The buildings I've used tend to use RFID keyfobs to access specific floors, but that doesn't stop anyone with a working keyfob from piggybacking on another staff member. 

    And that is the security thing I suspect they are trying to solve. Everyone has an iphone with some app, and allows the users to enter/exit any door in the building except those that they're not allowed into, and as a result there is a very precise access log. BT LE is already used as a kind of "indoor GPS". If you've ever been late in a building that uses RFID cards, you'd know that they are livid if you fail to tap in/out.

    The other idea that comes to mind is that Apple might use a "open access" layout, and thus you need an iPhone to open only the high security doors. If you forget your device at home, you're told to go home and get it rather than security handing you a temporary pass. So if you do it this way, every minute is accounted for as you pass through doors. That would allow for much more efficient time auditing, but that has privacy implications.
    Or just login to iCloud lock phone till you get home again, grab a spare and set it up from iCloud new office key. 


    Sorry meant to say wouldn't watch make a better key one that disables itself if taken off. 
    edited March 20 watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 1,413member
    larrya said:
    I just want this building to get done so they can focus on building things I want to buy again.
    Nonsense statement. The two are unrelated -- Ive has entire teams building products, and they aren't working on the building. 

    Not thay it would help you either way. My current phone, tablet, notebook, apple tv, watch, and headphones are all the best iterations of these devices i've ever owned. I'd never want to go backwards in time to older devices. If you don't like them now I don't know that you ever would -- the problem may be between ears, not with Apple. 
    edited March 20 williamlondonalexmacdaventdknoxwatto_cobraescanpscooter63
  • Reply 14 of 22
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 570member
    misa said:
    The buildings I've used tend to use RFID keyfobs to access specific floors, but that doesn't stop anyone with a working keyfob from piggybacking on another staff member. 

    The other idea that comes to mind is that Apple might use a "open access" layout, and thus you need an iPhone to open only the high security doors. If you forget your device at home, you're told to go home and get it rather than security handing you a temporary pass. So if you do it this way, every minute is accounted for as you pass through doors. That would allow for much more efficient time auditing, but that has privacy implications.
    Many commercial setups have the card readers wired into a centralized monitoring system. Piggybacking someone by scanning with an unauthorized unit to make it look appear like a valid scan to the person being piggybacked will usually set off an alert at the central monitor.

    Privacy usually isn't an issue at businesses when the employees are being monitored. Restroom monitoring would be a no-no however.

    The picture of the circuit board has an HID security systems logo (shown below) on it. There is something fishy here. The only reason Apple would have that logo on their board is if HID required it for use with their cards or they are using an HID board.


  • Reply 15 of 22
    That's an HID logo on the PCB there at the bottom...is this just a customized version of existing HID hardware?
  • Reply 16 of 22
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,194member
    linkman said:
    misa said:
    The buildings I've used tend to use RFID keyfobs to access specific floors, but that doesn't stop anyone with a working keyfob from piggybacking on another staff member. 

    The other idea that comes to mind is that Apple might use a "open access" layout, and thus you need an iPhone to open only the high security doors. If you forget your device at home, you're told to go home and get it rather than security handing you a temporary pass. So if you do it this way, every minute is accounted for as you pass through doors. That would allow for much more efficient time auditing, but that has privacy implications.
    Many commercial setups have the card readers wired into a centralized monitoring system. Piggybacking someone by scanning with an unauthorized unit to make it look appear like a valid scan to the person being piggybacked will usually set off an alert at the central monitor.

    Privacy usually isn't an issue at businesses when the employees are being monitored. Restroom monitoring would be a no-no however.

    The picture of the circuit board has an HID security systems logo (shown below) on it. There is something fishy here. The only reason Apple would have that logo on their board is if HID required it for use with their cards or they are using an HID board.


    Very likely they are working with HID to customize an existing product for Apple Park.
    Also, it is conceivable that a partnership with HID could result in a commercially available door lock system under the Apple or HID brands. HID is probably the biggest player in office/commercial, but not residential/consumer products. Apple is huge in consumer products. Hmm...
  • Reply 17 of 22
    Imagine if the iDevice fingerprint reader is necessary to gain access to a physical area.
  • Reply 18 of 22
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 1,521member
    Interesting. My recollection is that several AI commentors speculated this was the purpose of the device. Clever bunch.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 4,726member
    Nice. But Tim, “Where’s the Beef” for we customers?
    edited March 20
  • Reply 20 of 22
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 1,413member
    lkrupp said:
    Nice. But Tim, “Where’s the Beef” for we customers?
    Is automated door security a core product area for Apple? a Yes to the thousand No's?
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