Apple’s patent application, titled “Electronic device with sealed button biometric sensing system,” offers techniques for placing a fingerprint sensor inside a smartwatch.
The application explains some of the use case scenarios in addition to describing the technical components and many ways it can come to life.
The accompanying schematic depicts a side button that resembles the Touch ID power button on the iPad Air. The Apple Watch has enough side area to accommodate a button of that size, so the concept isn’t entirely absurd. Tapping on it will serve as a biometric authentication channel for a range of tasks in addition to operating as the power button.
A fingerprint sensor component may be placed inside the digital crown, which is an interesting suggestion in the patent application. The spinning function of the crown would still be present, but a Touch ID sensor would be tucked away below the flat contact surface in the centre of the device.
It is noteworthy that the patent also discusses the use of an in-display fingerprint sensor, a technique that is widely used on Android handsets.
The proposal states that “the display may also provide an input surface for one or more input devices, such, for example, a touch-sensing device and/or a fingerprint sensor.”
Let’s dive in
There is a good reason why raise-to-wake is a standard feature on smartwatches, not only Apple-branded ones. However, the patent application, which was released on July 5, lists a few important advantages.
If that sounds nebulous, let me elaborate on a few of those scenarios. According to the unsurprisingly jargon-heavy description section, a fingerprint sensor on an Apple Watch can “unlock an electronic device, authorize a transaction, send an alert, and/or enable applications running on the electronic device.”
The Apple Watch is equipped to perform a wide range of amazing functions, including taking electrocardiograms, determining blood oxygen saturation levels, and processing payments. It will soon be able to detect fever as well. It might incorporate noninvasive blood pressure and blood glucose monitoring in the upcoming years.
However, the storing of so much sensitive data, particularly private financial and health information, needs to be secure. The best course of action in these circumstances is to lock the data behind a layer of biometric security.
The convenience factor comes next. To verify a payment, you won’t need to enter a passcode or PIN. But Apple is not the only manufacturer of smartwatches who desires to include a biometric authentication system on a fashionable timepiece.
Samsung following as well?
According to a story from 2014, Samsung and PayPal signed a contract aimed at employing a fingerprint sensor to verify transactions. According to reports, Synaptics was chosen to supply the biometric authentication modules.
As of 2022, those plans haven’t materialized. The technology, nevertheless, was shown at a 2017 event using an Android Wear smartwatch.
A fingerprint sensor was positioned directly in the middle of the screen, beneath it, according to a Samsung patent that was covered by Patently Mobile in 2018. Again, that technology hasn’t yet been seen on a Samsung smartwatch, but it did give us a hint of what might come.
We’re probably at a similar level with Touch ID on the Apple Watch as we are with other implementations. Although Apple has a patent for the technology and is obviously developing it, it’s not known if or when it will appear on a real product.