Apple’s TouchID has promise for the enterprise

Better than invisible ink

apple touch id

Expect much more from Apple’s TouchID somewhere down the line – the company is thinking about more ways to make its biometric identification solution useful.

Easy ID

Apple’s Apple Pay shows part of this: “While only 4 percent have used Apply Pay, 18 percent say its introduction makes them more likely to make a purchase with their smartphone in the next year. The number rises to 36 percent when asking Apple users,” according to the Walker Sands 2015 Future of Retail study.

The move to embrace biometrics isn’t Apple’s alone, of course. Just this week, Alibaba introduced ‘Smile to Pay,' which enables payments through facial recognition. Many banks, including the UK’s NatWest and RBS, already integrate TouchID support in their iOS apps, so a fingerprint is all you need to access your bank account online.

Touch ID is capable of much more:

As a digital “signature” for contracts and other documents;

For forms and documents that display different information depending on a person’s print and digital ID – useful for employment contracts, for example;

To create device or connected home settings that respond to a fingerprint

As a key to external Web services, sites or even the enterprise extranet.

These are the sorts of scenarios Apple is exploring, according to a patent filing recently spotted by Patently Apple.

Ideas factory

The idea of using your fingerprint as a signature is not extreme – you can do it today if you install GoodReader 4, as the feature was added to this app this week.

Perhaps most interesting is the scenario in which TouchID might be used to protect communications by making them impossible to open in the absence of a defined ID (fingerprint). In this situation, you may receive an email you cannot read in its entirety unless you prove you are the person approved to read the entire communication.

“While displaying the redacted versions of the set of one or more credentials, detecting a fingerprint on the fingerprint sensor; and in response to detecting the fingerprint and in accordance with a determination that the fingerprint is associated with a user who is authorized to reveal the set of one or more credentials, displaying a non-redacted version of the set of one or more credentials,”Apple’s patent filing reads.

What is interesting about the notion of using Apple technology to protect documents is that from what we know of Apple security, the company has no insight into our fingerprint – this is stored in a Secure Enclave on your Apple device. Accessing this information will be incredibly difficult for any unauthorized third-party. Unless you use a jailbroken device...


This protection could be seen as the modern day equivalent of the Enigma Code – you must be who you are to access the information.

That such robust protection may be made available out of the box should be extremely alluring to enterprise customers, government and others. That’s not to say security services who seem desperate to poke inside all our communications will see it that way, so these advanced services may never see the light.

All the same, it is intriguing to think of other ways in which TouchID will be used. After all, it is already being used to replace hotel and soon car keys. Apple even has a patent in which Touch ID becomes a combination lock – imagine if prints from two or more people were required to open such a lock?

How else do you think TouchID may be applied?

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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