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iOS 7 May Bring Fingerprint Scanning to the Mainstream

iOS 7 May Bring Fingerprint Scanning to the Mainstream

Fingerprint scanning isn't new -- but Apple is known less for being the first to introduce a technology than for figuring out how to make it appealing to the masses. The introduction of fingerprint scanning as a security feature for iPhones could be a master stroke, if it works. If it's less than slick, though, there may be all sorts of "finger" puns in the headlines. Remember Apple Maps?

By Richard Adhikari MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
07/31/13 5:00 AM PT

The next iPhone will likely have a fingerprint scanning feature through iOS 7, iOS developer Hamza Sood has tweeted.

The tweet has a link to an image that shows several folders, including one titled "BiometricKitui.axbundle."

Sood further posted this Vine video showing an iPhone running iOS 7.

He is the creator of the free app SiriToggles, a jailbreak that lets Siri launch apps and access the iPhone's Settings app. It's available in the BigBoss repository of the Cydia app store.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

Let's Hear It for Scanning

Fingerprint scanning "adds another factor to the authentication process ... [which is] a net good thing" because this makes accounts more secure, Tom Kemp, CEO of Centrify, told MacNewsWorld. "This is, of course, assuming the scanning technology works."

Further, fingerprint scanning "combats a major source of security risk associated with passwords, namely password re-use," remarked Brendan Wilson, director of product management at Nok Nok Labs.

However, multiple levels of authentication are necessary, especially when payments or transactions are involved, said Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research.

On the other hand, the technology has yet to be proven on a mass scale, and the fragmentation of mobile operating systems and mobile devices will make it hard to deliver a consistent experience for users of a given app, Kemp warned.

Other issues include determining how to fit the sensor into a smartphone's casing and figuring out where to position it for the best user experience, Nok Nok Labs' Wilson told MacNewsWorld.

Then there's the problem of false positives and negatives.

"Any implementation will always need to deal with issues such as cut or dirty fingers or oily or extra-dry skin," Greg Kazmierczak, vice president of technology strategy at Wave Systems, told MacNewsWorld.

Giving the iPhone the Finger

Apple's incorporation of fingerprint scanning technology was expected in the wake of its purchase of mobile security firm AuthenTec just over a year ago for about US$356 million.

AuthenTec sold fingerprint sensor technology to HP, Dell and other computer manufacturers. Its fingerprint technology is used in mobile phones in Japan for authentication of mobile payments.

Fingerprint scanning will not just be a security feature; it will help move iPhones closer to becoming the mobile centers of users' lives by enabling mobile payments.

Last month, Apple was granted a key iWallet patent to enable a mobile pay service, an area in which it has lagged Android.

Further, it announced the new iOS 7 feature AirDrop at its World Wide Developers Conference last month.

The opportunity is huge. The mobile payments market will hit $90 billion by 2017, Forrester has predicted.

AirDrop would replace the need to use Near Field Communication, which is a key technology for mobile wallets that is being used by Google.

Of Fingers, Smartphones and Scanners

Fingerprint scanning on a smartphone was introduced in the Motorola Atrix 4G back in 2011.

"This is not something so revolutionary that it's never been done before," ABI's Orr told MacNewsWorld. "Notebooks have had fingerprint scanning for years."

Samsung reportedly planned to introduce a fingerprint scanning capability in its Galaxy Note 3, which was launched last year, but had to hold off because fingerprint sensing chips were in short supply.

However, "I'm not sure if it's so much a shortage as it's a relatively basic market, meaning there are relatively few implementations [of fingerprint sensing chips]," Orr said. "There is definitely supply out there; the question is, how relevant is it to the mobile market, and what's the right way to incorporate it into the device?"

Support for the technology from a company like Apple, "which could put the capability in millions of devices," noted Orr, "would be a game changer in putting a relatively restricted technology into the mainstream."


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