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Apple's AuthenTec deal may signal iPhone e-wallet fingerprint security

post #1 of 10
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Apple's reasons for purchasing AuthenTec for $356 million remain unknown, but the company's products may lead to secure fingerprint sensing technology for a future iPhone that could be tied in to a mobile e-wallet service, industry watchers believe.

Analyst Brian Marshall with ISI Group believes Apple's purchase of AuthenTec, announced on Friday, makes strategic sense for the company. He noted that Apple acquires technology assets it sees as important for product differentiation.

AuthenTec said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it "cannot comment on Apple's intentions" for the acquisition, according to The Wall Street Journal. But AuthenTec is best known for making fingerprint sensors, with its technology shipped in more than 100 million portable devices, including more than 20 million mobile phones.

Marshall sees a number of key ways that Apple could leverage the assets it has acquired from AuthenTec. The most obvious use would be secure, touch-based fingerprint sensing technology that could be integrated into the iPhone and iPad.

That security technology could also be part of a mobile wallet application using near-field communications, he said in a note to investors Friday. That's another area where AuthenTec specializes, and rumors have claimed for years that Apple is very interested in integrating digital wallet technology into a future iPhone.

Analyst Maynard Um with Wells Fargo Securities also believes Apple is most likely interested in using fingerprint authentication for secure mobile payments.

AuthenTec 1


As for other potential reasons for the deal, both Marshall and Um believe the purchase could allow Apple to enhance virtual private network, or VPN, technology in its iOS mobile operating system for the iPhone and iPad. Such a move could bolster Apple's standing in the enterprise, both analysts said Friday.

Marshall also said the acquisition of the Melbourne, Fla.-based security firm could lead to improved capabilities with digital rights management, or DRM. In this way, Apple could help protect copyrighted content when it is shared and distributed across multiple PCs, TVs and mobile devices.

In addition, Um noted that AuthenTec's DRM solution is already used by operators to secure live and video-on-demand content. He believes Apple could leverage that technology in future devices, like the company's rumored full-fledged television set.



Some of Apple's recent acquisitions have helped to provide a clear picture of where the company is headed. For example, in 2010 Apple acquired Siri before integrating the voice-driven personal assistant technology into the iPhone 4S in 2011, while its purchases of mapping companies Poly9 Poly9 and C3 Technologies foreshadowed Apple's new Maps application for iOS 6.

On the hardware front, Apple bought ARM chip designer P.A. Semi in 2008 for $278 million, while another mobile chipmaker, Intrinsity, was purchased in 2010 for $121 million. Those acquisitions helped Apple build its own custom ARM processors for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV.
post #2 of 10

Cue up video of Charlie Miller quite literally "hacking" the fingerprint identification system in iOS. 

post #3 of 10

bye bye slide to unlock - google you're off the hook!

post #4 of 10

Probably too late for the AuthenTec sensor to be put into this year's iPhone.  Maybe next year.

Mobile contactless payments haven't reached anything near a "tipping point" in the US yet anyway.

And where mobile contactless payments are popular (e.g. Japan) it's a user-hostile mess of incompatible

and competing systems.

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post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by i_bad_apple View Post

bye bye slide to unlock - google you're off the hook!

 

Why? Couldn't the slide to unlock read your fingerprint as you use it. Beats having to type a PIN code in everytime you unlock the device.

post #6 of 10

Seems like Apple have overcome their reservations regarding eWallets. I'm not sure I would want to use it for large transactions but for small payments I think it's a great idea. Beats carrying round all that loose change. 

post #7 of 10

i don't think they have reservations - at least in the U.S.,  few businesses have the readers necessary for NFC payments.  google wallets gone nowhere after a year.  lots of hurdles to overcome - carriers, readers, standards.... I wish the nyc subway system would adopt it - i hate filling up those stupid cards that always seem to run out when i'm in a rush.   


Edited by i_bad_apple - 7/27/12 at 10:05am
post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by SockRolid View Post

Probably too late for the AuthenTec sensor to be put into this year's iPhone.  Maybe next year.

Mobile contactless payments haven't reached anything near a "tipping point" in the US yet anyway.

And where mobile contactless payments are popular (e.g. Japan) it's a user-hostile mess of incompatible

and competing systems.

I wouldn't count it out.  Just because it was formally announced that Apple purchased them today, it does not mean Apple has not been working with them for several months already.  Also, this feature has already been included in several Android devices, so I would imagine it would take relatively little work to include the hardware in a new iOS device.  I think if Apple is going to include the NFC chip in this year's iPhone, they'll have this feature for extra security.

post #9 of 10
That is one of the best video ads I have seen. Clear, concise and fun to watch. When it was done you knew everything you needed about what it does and how it might work for your business. I wish all ads were like this.
post #10 of 10
I don't see Apple buying for for the fingerprint sensor novelty. So far I've never seen a viable biometric for something you truly want protected. The best mechanism is to use an unlock key that is remembered.

Of course, I hope this tech can evolve so that my device can be protected as well as instantly usable when I pick it up but I don't think were even close to that sic-fi fantasy becoming a reality.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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