If you’ve been using the fingerprint sensor on your fancy new iPhone 5s, and been amazed at its efficiency, then Apple’s recent patent filing will be of interest.
The iPhone maker filed two patents recently for the tech in its flagship phone, and there’s some new insight into the operation of the security technology. The first patent deals with how information is stored in a secure enclave on the phone’s A7 processor.
It was already known that the fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s doesn’t store an image of a user’s fingerprint, but rather creates a checksum after creating a map of the finger. That checksum data is then used to compare data whenever a finger is scanned to grant access to the phone. What the patent reveals that wasn’t known before is that the tech only lets scanned fingerprints be compared to valid prints – not the other way around. That is to say, it’s impossible to get access to the data and reconstruct a fingerprint.
Macrumors reports that the main inventor for the fingerprint security tech is Wayne Westerman, whose company Fingerworks was purchased by Apple in 2005. Westerman has also been heavily involved in the multi-touch technology that Apple’s worked on.
The second patent filing is for the actual construction of the fingerprint sensor. It includes a full exploded view of the entire sensor’s design. As previously noted, the sensor is a scanning type, rather than a swiping type. Until now, most fingerprint readers in consumer technology have been strips that require a finger to be swiped. Apple’s solution uses an image sensor and lens to scan a finger, much like a digital camera.
Interestingly, these patents were only filed in March, and haven’t been awarded yet.