Apple seeks to bulk up on security with fingerprint patent

The company's patent application, published Thursday, shows how the iPhone's display could be used as a fingerprint sensor for additional security.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
A look at Apple's finger-sensing patent application.
A look at Apple's finger-sensing patent application. Apple/USPTO

Apple's iOS-based devices and maybe even Macs could eventually come with support for a fingerprint sensor directly on the display.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Thursday published a patent application that Apple filed with its offices on January 17. The patent describes a technology in which a sensor is used to trace a person's finger and fingerprint and determine, based on that, if they have proper credentials. Apple's patent application doesn't go as far as including the security features that might come with it on the software side, but it's clear what the technology is designed to do.

Biometric technology has, of course, been in place for years on devices. Many enterprise computers, in fact, come with a fingerprint sensor that allows users to access their computers and certain protected files. If a person's finger doesn't match up with what's been stored on the PC, they cannot gain access to the device.

Apple's technology is slightly different than those embodiments. Rather than use an attached hardware sensor, like most PCs do, Apple's patent application allows users to place their fingers on a touch display. The company's technology then analyzes the finger on a pixel-by-pixel basis to determine if it's a match with the owner's.

Apple's patent application is the just the latest in a long line of fingerprint-sensing technology the company has brought to the USPTO. So far, however, none of those technologies has made their way to the iPhone or iPad. As with other companies, Apple often files for patents on technologies that seem to never see the light of day.

(Via Patently Apple)