Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Apple September Event - Any new Biometrics Features?

The net is buzzing with its usual mixture of the possible, the potential and the damn-right ridiculous predictions on what Apple will announce later today at its September device event. In the mix has been a number of rumours on what Apple may do in terms of supporting biometrics.  Time will tell, but before the event takes place here is a list of some of them with my views on them.

iPhone 7
The most believable is changes to the home button with either a more flushed designed button integrated into the display or removal completely. Most fingerprint sensor designers have been working on integrating a sensor underneath the display (under glass) rather than underneath a coated button and Apple is probably ahead of the curve in its development. 

There is a strong possibility that Touch ID on iPhone 7 will be an under the glass sensor (probably still capacitive) and Apple may have had to either reduce the thickness of the glass or develop a recess in the glass to reduce its thickness to ensure that the sensor's performance is not degraded. 

The integration under glass may also mean the development of 'Force' Touch ID and could mean that the sensor could improve anti-spoof capabilities by measuring the force of its registered user's touch in addition to the usual matching against  stored fingerprint templates. 

With Iris being integrated into the Samsung GN7 (unfortunately recalled) there have also been rumours that iris recognition will be supported in this version. It is likely that this will have to wait until at least iPhone 8. 

Watch 2
The most reliable rumours on new sensors points to GPS. As my Sony SmartWatch 3 has this feature, I can definitely see that having GPS in a watch definitely makes the device more independent and is a great feature when you out running (According to Google Fit this last occurred in February for me - shocking I know). The partnership between Precise Biometrics, FPC, Gemalto and STMicro in developing a biometric platform for wearables has given us a clear indication that integrating biometric sensors into wearables, for authentication and identity, is viable. Whether Apple sees any merit in doing so is questionable. Payments has been a major driving force for biometrics and for Apple to support a standalone payments app on a smartwatch that  replicates the iPhone security environment including the secure enclave is debatable from a business case point of view. 

We may see the watch having more independence from a paired iPhone but I would be surprised to see a decoupling in this context. I would say there is an outside chance of a separate biometric (identity) sensor being integrated into Watch 2. 

I look forward in hearing what Apple will actually do later today and will follow-up this blog with another one with analysis on anything that is important from a security and identity perspective.

Addendum 09/09: After the official announcements from Apple on iPhone 7 and Watch 2, comments on my predictions. Not a lot of direct announcements on biometrics. However, Apple has changed the home button in creating a solid state version with force features and taptic feedback. There was no clarity on whether there is any changes to Touch ID as a result of this change. As predicted, no support for other modalities including Iris and no Biometrics for the Watch. I am currently researching the mobile biometrics market so keep a watch out for further updates in this area. Thanks. Alan

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