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Innovations for Mobile Technology

from the September 17, 2013 eNews issue

Apple announced a new feature for their iPhone5S and iOS7 that will change the way consumers handle business transactions in the future. Apple company senior vice president Phil Schiller unveiled the new fingerprint identification system on the iPhone 5S last week. This new feature will read fingerprints at a detailed level, teaching the iPhone 5S about your fingerprint.

Some skeptics wondered if the National Security Agency (NSA) would capture fingerprints stored in the iPhone as it traveled through the Internet cloud. The iPhone 5S uses a sapphire crystal to read the users fingerprint to unlock the phone. The fingerprint is stored within the device and is not uploaded to the Internet. The purpose for the fingerprint scanner bypasses the need to enter a password on the smartphone. This technology has many experts thinking that this would change how business commerce is done. Apple has not released its proprietary technology to e-commerce app writers just yet.

Apples’ new Touch ID system does not store the fingerprint image; instead it stores the “fingerprint data” inside the iPhones encrypted A7 chip. The fingerprint image is transformed into mathematical data using a string of numbers and letters. In order to gain valuable information, the hacker must figure out the formula Apple uses to encrypt the data. Experts in the IT security field claim that it is easy to trick the fingerprint sensor into allowing hackers to access the data. In 2002, a Japanese cryptographer Tsutomu Matsumoto used gelatin and a plastic mold to fake a fingerprint. Apple has added another security layer requiring a passcode to unlock the iPhone 5S after a reboot or if the phone remains unlocked for 48 hours.

Apple bought the fingerprint-sensor maker Authen Tech for $350 million last year. This new iPhone feature has boosted the biometric market. Apple gave touchscreen technology its big break in 2007 with the first iPhone. Now some experts agree that Apple’s fingerprint identification system will do the same for companies that manufacture biometric security devices. Biometric companies such as Gemalto, Morpho, and Oberthur Technologies have enjoyed profit sales to government and banks. They have adopted the use of biometric technology for fingerprint, retina scanners, and facial-recognition systems. The Pentagon signed a $3 million contract in February with a California based company AOptix. The company will develop a hardware add-on for smartphones to enable soldiers to scan people’s faces, eyes, voices, and thumbprints.

Another feature Apple quietly added to the new iOS7 will allow retail stores to send customized coupons when shoppers enter the store on their iPhones. The feature is called iBeacon. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) that emits a signal to a physical small wireless sensor inside the store. When a customer enters a store it will transmit a coupon and even give walking directions within the store pointing the customer to the particular coupon product. This new technology might kill NFC (near-field communications), the wireless technology currently used to link with mobile payments.

Another new iPhone5S feature allows users to share photos, videos, and contacts quickly and easily from any app with a Share button. Using AirDrop the files are transferred wirelessly using encrypted keys making the transfer highly secure and reliable. Apple “locks” their apps to prevent thieves from breaking the code while allowing the user to freely use the app. The best analogy to use is an apartment building. Tenants can lock themselves in their own apartment and freely use or even break the contents within the apartment without harming the building. Apple locks apps in rooms with access to some of the contents. The Apple iOS is based on a version of Unix that prevents users from hacking into the app and try to manipulate the data. The way to hack into an Apple iOS is by “jailbreaking.” Jailbreaking uses an application that is not authorized by Apple to unlock a particular app. Jailbreaking does not change the iOS architecture, but it does cause apps not to function or execute properly. The odds for someone to jailbreak an iPhone to acquire a fingerprint seems highly unlikely.

Apple will probably move slowly with the fingerprint scanner technology to move forward other ambitious uses in the business world. This is because many skeptics are concerned to give sensitive information to a technology company, given the still unknown capabilities of NSA spying. Fingerprint Cards CEO Johan Carlström predicts Apple will be the best company suited to win over skeptics. If “Apple gets its fingerprint solution to work seamlessly and delivers a great user experience, it will mean a paradigm shift,” he says.


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