Insight: Trigger Finger - Apple fires biometrics into the mainstream

Thu Sep 12, 2013 1:22pm EDT
 
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By Jeremy Wagstaff and Malathi Nayak

SINGAPORE/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - By adding a fingerprint scanner to its newest mobile phone, Apple Inc is offering a tantalizing glimpse of a future where your favorite gadget might become a biometric pass to the workplace, mobile commerce or real-world shopping and events.

Although Apple's executives said at Tuesday's launch that its Touch ID technology embedded into the iPhone 5S' home button would only provide fingerprint access to the phone and its own online stores, analysts said Apple's embrace of such technology, called biometrics, would be key to wider adoption.

"It really propels biometrics into the mainstream," said specialist Alan Goode, the UK-based managing director of research consultancy Goode Intelligence.

Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design, hinted of its future in a video presentation at the launch.

"Touch ID defines the next step of how you use your iPhone," he said, "making something as important as security so effortless and so simple."

Passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) have long been the mainstay of access to devices, bank accounts and online services, despite their poor record. Many passwords can easily be guessed, while others can be hacked by brute-force attacks - essentially a computer program running through all possible permutations.

They also involve one too many steps for lots of users: Apple said that half of smartphone users don't bother to password-protect their devices.

Hence the appeal of biometrics, which take something unique to the individual - a fingerprint, an iris, voice or facial features - as authentication.   Continued...

 
A journalist tests the the new iPhone 5S Touch ID fingerprint recognition feature at Apple Inc's announcement event in Beijing, in this September 11, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee