Will Apple patent move biometrics away from security?

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09/30/2010

I was going through my Google Alerts today and came across an intersting article from WIRED  about a new patent recently granted to Apple. The patent is for what WIRED argues is THE new use for biometrics: Personalization. WIRED says biometrics has been oversold and doesn't work all that well for security, but may be a perfect fit for personalization.

We've written about Apple and security before.

From the WIRED article:

"The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week granted Apple a patent for biometric-sensor handheld devices that recognize a user by the image of his or her hand. In the not-too-distant future, anyone in the house could pick up an iOS device — or a remote control or camera — and have personalized settings queued up just for them."

Okay, I get that. That sounds pretty cool. The article then goes on about how the new patent will "protect" devices... which sounds like security to me...

Then the article claims this new use for biometrics will differ from the over-promised but undelivered use of biometrics in access control.

"It’s a very different use of biometrics than we’ve seen in the movies. Hand and retina scanners have been touted for years as a futuristic gatekeepers to high-security buildings. This is usually a much-embellished version of their real-world use by businesses and government agencies for whom secrecy is a big deal. In the wider world, tiny fingerprint scanners have been built into laptops, but they aren’t widely used for the simple reason that they don’t work reliably enough.

"But while they might be insufficient for security, biometrics might work just fine for personalization. Suppose my family shares a future-generation iPad that supports multiple user profiles and a version of this sensor technology. When my wife or I pick it up, the mail application displays each of our inboxes separately. When our young son picks it up, only games and other approved applications are available. If guests or intruders pick it up, a guest profile would make none of your personal information immediately available to them."

Don't get me wrong, I see the cool factor of all this. I mean, extrapolate this use of biometrics out to the automobile: As soon as my hand touches the sensor in the door handle, the seats and mirrors automatically adjust to me, the sound system automatically sets to my personal music playlists and ear-splitting volume levels... That's pretty cool. But isn't assuring that my 3-year-old son only sees his pre-approved Wiggles videos on the iPad and not my classic horror movie collection a form of access control? Even it it's only access control of movie playlists? and isn't access control security? I would argue that biometric control of personalized settings is still security.

The article aslo mentions that biometrics has been oversold as "futuristic gatekeepers to high-security buildings." I wrote a story a while back about a security company that uses a suite of technologies, including biometrics to secure buildings. That company--FST21--was followed by SSN later in a story about a security integrator who was having luck with the solution.

What do you all think? Is there still room for biometrics in security, or is it all about the iPad from here?

 

 

Comments

<p>I think it's rather ridiculous to even be discussing a movement of biometric technology away from security to solely personalization purposes. There are literally thousands of biometric technology deployments across the country for security purposes that are working and working quite well. Then, all of a sudden the mighty and powerful Apple decides to patent a biometric technology and then proclaim that biometrics as a security mechanism is dead. Exactly what is their experience in this field to make this type of proclamation? Where are their years of research and development experience and examples of real life deployments, customer feedback and retooling the technology to make it feasible? To even remotely believe that Apple is somehow an authority in the field of biometrics or should be even listened to is ludicrous and unfathomable. Just another example of their perceived omniscience in a field that they know nothing about. Shameful.</p>