The Apple Watch is a very cool device, as far as smartwatches go. But so far, one thing has been missing–an extra layer of security via biometric authentication.
That could be about to change. According to Patently Apple, a new patent shows Apple is considering adding a form of fingerprint Touch ID to the Apple Watch.
The authentication process would take place via the digital crown on the side of Apple’s smartwatch, which could read the fingerprint and compare it to a stored image.
Breaking down the Apple Watch patent
Looking at the images published with the Apple patent makes the possible feature’s intentions pretty clear. However, as is the case with all Apple patents, the language is very vague.
“An electronic watch includes a housing defining a side surface of the electronic watch, a transparent cover coupled to the housing and defining a front surface of the electronic watch, an image-sensing element, and a crown extending from the side of the housing and defining an imaging surface,” the patent reads. “The crown may include a light-directing feature configured to direct, onto the image-sensing element, an image of an object in contact with the imaging surface.”
Then it hints that this could be used for Touch ID purposes: “The features that are analyzed may include features of a user’s skin (e.g., fingerprints, hair follicles), or any other optically detectable feature, texture, surface irregularity, image, or the like, of any object. In this way, the device may be responsive to skin (e.g., the skin of a user’s finger or hand), a stylus, a gloved finger, or any other suitable object with optically detectable features.
“As used herein, analysis of an image by an image sensor and/or other components of an electronic device may refer to an analysis of a stored image (e.g., the stored multidimensional array, which may be a digital photograph or a video).”
Published this month by the U.S. patent office, the Apple patent application was actually filed back in 2018. It’s therefore uncertain when and even if this feature could come to the market, but hopefully it will be soon. The Apple Watch 6 is expected this Fall, so stay tuned for more information.
Securing the Apple Watch with biometrics: A much needed addition
Apple is pretty good at providing users with security and privacy features. IOS 13 has added a bunch of cool updates including the ability to use security keys with your iPhone.
Meanwhile, Apple is taking on its biggest rival Google by adding privacy features to Apple Maps.
The ability to authenticate yourself via biometrics is certainly something the Apple Watch needs. Currently you can open the device via a passcode or through authenticating yourself on your Apple iPhone.
But what about accessing other devices? You can, for example, access your iMac by simply wearing your Apple Watch. This feature is of course very convenient, but it has never been all that secure.
With Apple apparently about to give users the ability to use their smartwatch as a car key, that extra layer of authentication will be very much needed. The bonus of Touch ID is, if it works, it’s also a very convenient way of accessing your device itself as well as potentially your car or Mac.