A little earlier today we took a look at where smartphones have been able to take fingerprint-based authentication so far, wondering about what future the tech might have. Has the novelty worn off? Will the security it offers substantially improve? It looks like Apple’s been asking itself some similar questions, and today we see the publication of a patent application that may hint at what’s next for Touch ID.
The gist of the patent is an unlock system that combines fingerprint scanning with the sort of pattern or combination-based lock screens already used on many phones that lack integrated scanners. In effect, it becomes a system that connects the “something you are” security of fingerprints with the “something you know” security of passwords.
Rather than accepting a static fingerprint scan, the system would continually poll the scanner while the unlock process was active, recognizing not just the pattern of the fingerprint being applied, but also the motion the finger takes – so this would require a field-type scanner like we see on iPhones, where you would usually just press and hold your finger, rather than a swipe-type scanner that already relies upon finger motion.
You might press your finger on the iPhone Touch ID scanner and then twist your finger from side to side, interacting with an on-screen combination lock. Or maybe you’d press and swipe to the sides, adding a directional element that could be interpreted on-screen as a connect-the-dots pattern unlock.
It’s a neat idea, and while it may seem to defeat the idiot-proof nature of fingerprint scanning, we can appreciate the extra security that could be offered – and hopefully, you could always default to a regular-old fingerprint scan if you didn’t also want this fancy combination business.
Right now this is just a patent, and there’s no proof Apple intends to use it on the next iPhone, but it’s sure something we’ll be thinking about as rumors and leaks of that upcoming hardware continue to emerge.