Apple’s acquisition of mobile device security developer AuthenTec isn’t stop-the-press news. The consumer electronics giant buys a couple-few firms each year. But Apple spent a lot on the firm — $356 million — and appears to be in a hurry to commercialize AuthenTec’s technology, which uses fingerprint sensors to authenticate mobile users as a security application.
Such biometric technology is common in government and high-security industries. Employees sometimes have to hold a finger up to a scanner in order to log onto a computer network, for example, and moving that technology to their mobile devices is a natural extension. Biometric authentication, whether it’s based on fingerprints or iris scans or some combination of mediums, is highly secure and easy, since users don’t need to remember and key in an identification number.
Such a high-tech security feature might seem like overkill for logging onto Facebook from an iPhone. It probably is. But for phone-based financial transactions, such a feature might mean the difference between consumer acceptance and discontentment. Many experts expect the new Apple iOS, Passbook, to use AuthenTec’s fingerprint scanner to authenticate buyers.
CNET reports that in addition to buying AuthenTec, Apple is in a joint development partnership with the company to further develop its technology, which indicates Apple wants to put itself in the lead of fingerprint authentication applications for mobile devices.