Wednesday, 11 September 2013

iPhone 5S fingerprint technology – eye-catching

Apple unveils two iPhones — and a password at your fingertip, it says in the Times today. According to the Telegraph, Apple iPhone 5S and 5C: fingerprint sensor and plastic make iPhone 5 debut. Etcetera, throughout the media.

You could have announced the end of the world yesterday. No-one would have noticed.

In fact, Sir David Attenborough did. "I think that we've stopped evolving", he told the Radio Times. And all anyone wanted to know is how easily they can photograph themselves with the iPhone 5C.

No matter how trivial the detail, media coverage was breathlessly serious.

Except, perhaps, for Murad Ahmed in the Times. For him, maybe there is some sign of a sense of humour. Maybe there is hope:
At events held at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, and Berlin yesterday, analysts said the new fingerprint technology was the most eye-catching advance.
Which brings us to biometrics.

Suppose the fingerprint recognition in the iPhone 5S doesn't work. Suppose that 20 percent of 5S owners queue up outside Phones4U, complaining that they've bought a product that won't let them use it – the computer says I'm not me and it won't let me unlock the home screen – and they all want their contracts cancelled and their money back.

Suppose someone finds a way to steal your fingerprints from the iPhone 5S and use them to authenticate their own purchases, fraudulently. It's not as though you can just go out and get a new set of fingerprints ...

That's not a disaster for Apple alone.

What will the news footage of those queues do for US-VISIT, the US border control system that relies on fingerprint recognition? What will it do for Aadhaar, the Indian identity management scheme that ditto? What will it do for Safran's share price? What will it do for payments systems which rely on fingerprint recognition to authenticate transactions?

Sweaty fingers and scared eyes. It's in their DNA. That's the evolutionary response that will be shared by all the owners with a horse in the Apple Stakes.

If the fingerprint technology is up to the job and can authenticate you as the legitimate user of this iPhone 5S, then it can also allow you to open the front door to your house. As the Wall Street Journal said in Apple's Latest iPhone Puts Focus Back on Fingerprint Security. Last word to them:
"If I go jogging with my iPhone and I come back to my house and my thumb is all sweaty and I can't get in my apartment door, that would kind of suck".

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