European Apple patent hints at NFC-enabled iPhone fingerprint sensor

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A recently unveiled European patent filed by Apple describes a means of combining a fingerprint scanner with near-field communication technology, furthering rumors that Apple's next iPhone will integrate a novel form of security in order to set itself apart.



International Patent No. WO 2013/130396 A2 describes an "electronic device with shared near field communications and sensor structures." It is derived from a U.S. patent application that was filed last year.

FP Patent


The technology discussed in the patent, spotted by Patently Apple, seems to align well with what industry observers believe will be the main security feature built into at least the higher-end model of iPhone that is likely to be introduced later this week. Consensus seems to have settled around a silver ring surrounding the home button on the "iPhone 5S." That ring, which has shown up in purported packaging materials and in supposed iPhone component leaks, is thought to house aspects of a fingerprint scanner that could take the place in many cases of a password.

Notably, the European patent even depicts a metal ring around the home button, with its embedded sensor also displayed in the illustration. That matches exactly what analysts and commentators have come to believe will be the central feature of Apple's new high-end smartphone.

Aside from simply unlocking the device or replacing a password in, for example, an iTunes transaction, the addition of a fingerprint sensor as described in the patent could open a range of new possibilities for using the device. The pairing of the sensor with near-field communication technology could allow Apple to move into a range of different sectors.

The patent discusses leveraging the NFC-biometric pairing to provide secure interactions involving wireless lock functions, wireless data synching, and security applications. Additional possible applications include pairing with headphones, interactions with vending machines, and verification of security badges. It also mentions the possibility of using NFC data for a wireless payment.

FP Patent


That latter element could prove one of the most important functions an NFC-enabled iPhone could perform. NFC connectivity has been a feature in Android-powered phones for some time now, and Google and others have been attempting to push the technology as a mobile payment platform, to middling results. Google in particular has seen its efforts stymied by resistance from assorted wireless carriers, who are pushing their own competing mobile payment platform.

Apple, meanwhile, has sat out the rush to integrate NFC, even though the iPhone maker is believed to have been working on integrating it with iPhones since 2010. Last year saw Apple unveiling Passbook, a digital wallet feature that stores tickets, store cards, and boarding passes. At the time, many observers puzzled at Apple's reluctance to take the extra step and integrate NFC.

Some observers pointed out that security flaws in the NFC standard could allow for many phones to be accessed without user permission. Presumably, Apple's pairing of NFC with a biometric sensing security level would serve to mitigate some of that risk.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 65
    noirdesirnoirdesir Posts: 1,027member
    So, the home button uses NFC to communicate with the finger...
  • Reply 2 of 65
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    This would appear to be simply a possible [I]extension[/I] of the fingerprint sensor technology that will be employed in the iPhone 5s, not necessarily the technology itself.

    The author is wrong to imply that this patent indicates that the NFC technology will be present in the soon-to-be announced device. NFC need not [I]ever[/I] be present in [I]any[/I] iOS device for this to be a reasonable patent for Apple to apply for.
  • Reply 3 of 65
    I guess what that means is NFC is only activated when a person is authenticated by biometric finger scan.
  • Reply 4 of 65
    hydrhydr Posts: 146member

    This appears to be an remarkable patent. I believe username/password challenges are about to be obsolete. This is the beginning of the end of having to enter your username/password. Just a matter of time before this is the only way for all their products to authenticate. And by the looks of it, a much more secure way as well.

  • Reply 5 of 65
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member
  • Reply 6 of 65
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nzhong168 View Post



    I guess what that means is NFC is only activated when a person is authenticated by biometric finger scan.

     

    Or better yet, biometric authentication can be triggered as part of the NFC transaction.  Just as it can be triggered by over the internet.

    It's just an authentication factor like user ID and password.  For example:

     

    1.  Push the power button to login using fingerprint authentication.

    2.  Wave phone in front of receiver to initiate NFC communication.

    3.  Use the in-display fingerprint reader to authenticate the NFC transaction.

     

    The Question is who is going to own the huge fingerprint DB ?  

    1.  Apple? 

    2.  Banks / Credit card issuers? (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover)

    3.  Government Agencies?

    4.  ID card issuers?  (Corporations, Agencies, etc... )

  • Reply 7 of 65
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post

     

     

    Or better yet, biometric authentication can be triggered as part of the NFC transaction.  Just as it can be triggered by over the internet.

    It's just an authentication factor like user ID and password.  For example:

     

    1.  Push the power button to login using fingerprint authentication.

    2.  Wave phone in front of receiver to initiate NFC communication.

    3.  Use the in-display fingerprint reader to authenticate the NFC transaction.

     

    The Question is who is going to own the huge fingerprint DB ?  

    1.  Apple? 

    2.  Banks / Credit card issuers? (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover)

    3.  Government Agencies?

    4.  ID card issuers?  (Corporations, Agencies, etc... )


     

    There is absolutely nothing about the NFC portion of this patent that couldn't also be done with bluetooth in a much more secure way however.  

     

    And whether with bluetooth or with NFC, the important part is the fingerprint scan itself. "Waving" the phone as well as "pushing" the home button are not really necessary.  Once the fingerprint scanner is securely paired with the device and the fingerprint is required to open or use the device, then the mere presence of the device can serve as authentication.  There is no need to authenticate each transaction or even take your phone out of your pocket really.  Even if secondary authentication is necessary, merely touching the home button lightly with one finger should do it. 

  • Reply 8 of 65
    The big question: Will this protect the user from NSA backdoor access? If the fingerprint is the ultimate gatekeeper for the device, would hacking attempts be completely quashed?
  • Reply 9 of 65
    On a vaguely related matter, wasn't it the Ming Chi guy/gal who originally predicted the fingerprint sensor with 5S?

    If so, major kudos. (I have been one of the major skeptics about him/her here, so it's all the more important that I acknowledge this prediction).
  • Reply 10 of 65

    No. The NSA has Apple on board.

  • Reply 11 of 65
    More security
  • Reply 12 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

     

     

    There is absolutely nothing about the NFC portion of this patent that couldn't also be done with bluetooth in a much more secure way however.  

     

    And whether with bluetooth or with NFC, the important part is the fingerprint scan itself. "Waving" the phone as well as "pushing" the home button are not really necessary.  Once the fingerprint scanner is securely paired with the device and the fingerprint is required to open or use the device, then the mere presence of the device can serve as authentication.  There is no need to authenticate each transaction or even take your phone out of your pocket really.  Even if secondary authentication is necessary, merely touching the home button lightly with one finger should do it. 


     

    Well,  3 things:

     

    1.  If your phone is stolen (Grabbed from your hands) while you are logged on, the thief could have a filed day with your charge cards if a secondary fingerprint authentication is not necessary for verification.

     

    2.  Once logged on, a slight push of the home button will exit an application or go to the home screen.  That's where the in-display fingerprint comes in.

     

    3.  Different ID Card issuers may wish to use different fingerprint DBs.  Unless iCloud owns it all over the world.

  • Reply 13 of 65
    droidftwdroidftw Posts: 1,009member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post



    The Question is who is going to own the huge fingerprint DB ? 

     

    It's unlikely that there would be a huge fingerprint database with regards to the patent or NFC transactions.  The fingerprint check is just there to authenticate the user, like a password or pin number.  While a fingerprint database could be implemented, it's not necessary.

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post



    The big question: Will this protect the user from NSA backdoor access?

     

    No, it probably won't.  Apple is working with the NSA just like the other major technology companies are.  Apple joined up with the NSA and began sharing data in October 2012 according to the leaked documents.

  • Reply 14 of 65
    jd_in_sbjd_in_sb Posts: 1,581member
    What a contrast: The fingerprint scanner is another example of Apple innovation that will change the way the world communicates. Samsung on the other hand is focused on creating expensive, ugly watches that no one will buy.
  • Reply 15 of 65
    Silver Ring... Hmm...

    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
    /
    /
    /
  • Reply 16 of 65
    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post

    Silver Ring... Hmm...



    One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,

    One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

     

    It was gold.

  • Reply 17 of 65
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DroidFTW View Post

     

     

    It's unlikely that there would be a huge fingerprint database with regards to the patent or NFC transactions.  The fingerprint check is just there to authenticate the user, like a password or pin number.  While a fingerprint database could be implemented, it's not necessary.


     

    I agree that for speed and simplicity the fingerprint stored on the phone can be used to login to the phone.

    However, the third party applications are limitless.  Passbook applications are about the get very sophisticated.

     

    The APIs for this should be interesting.

  • Reply 18 of 65
    jd_in_sb wrote: »
    What a contrast: The fingerprint scanner is another example of Apple innovation that will change the way the world communicates. Samsung on the other hand is focused on creating expensive, ugly watches that no one will buy.

    Right on. Just like the retarded feature that is supposed to pause video play back when you look away and resume when you look at the device again. That is the buggiest greatest gimmick fail of all times. Just like the unlock feature that "IDs your face." I took a picture I had of my buddy and showed it to the phone directly from my iPhone and it unlock his Android. Just a bunch of gimmicki features that don't even work. Now this, if it is true, is a serious feature. This IS innovation.
  • Reply 19 of 65
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleSauce007 View Post

     

     

    Or better yet, biometric authentication can be triggered as part of the NFC transaction.  Just as it can be triggered by over the internet.

    It's just an authentication factor like user ID and password.  For example:

     

    1.  Push the power button to login using fingerprint authentication.

    2.  Wave phone in front of receiver to initiate NFC communication.

    3.  Use the in-display fingerprint reader to authenticate the NFC transaction.

     

    The Question is who is going to own the huge fingerprint DB ?  

    1.  Apple? 

    2.  Banks / Credit card issuers? (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover)

    3.  Government Agencies?

    4.  ID card issuers?  (Corporations, Agencies, etc... )


     

     

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

     

     

    There is absolutely nothing about the NFC portion of this patent that couldn't also be done with bluetooth in a much more secure way however.  

     

    And whether with bluetooth or with NFC, the important part is the fingerprint scan itself. "Waving" the phone as well as "pushing" the home button are not really necessary.  Once the fingerprint scanner is securely paired with the device and the fingerprint is required to open or use the device, then the mere presence of the device can serve as authentication.  There is no need to authenticate each transaction or even take your phone out of your pocket really.  Even if secondary authentication is necessary, merely touching the home button lightly with one finger should do it. 


     

    The bigger question I have is how Apple implements an iWallet and payments.

     

    Are they going to:

     

    1. Partner with MasterCard or VISA of which own the PayPass NFC terminals already located at many retailers worldwide

     

    2. Partner with Isis the NFC terminals developed in partnership by US Carriers. (This I doubt because it would be too "US-Centric")

     

    3. Develop their own Payment system.

     

    Of course the Apple way would be #3, but I have doubts, because they haven't made any movement in that direction. If they were going to set up an entire NFC or Bluetooth payment structure from the ground up, I would think they would have quietly bought some small companies focused on wireless payment terminal technology or made the necessary hires for that.

     

    It would seem to me that Apple may just partner with an established system and add their weight behind that. I'm banking on a deal with MasterCard and/or VISA with some sort of profit sharing involved as well. That would be instantly global and usable on day 1, and it would kill Google Wallet overnight.

  • Reply 20 of 65
    I predict that thieves / pickpockets will add a new tool to their arsenal - a pair or sharp garden shears. Just snip off the digit of a victim, and have access to their phone and much more.
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