Apple pioneered the fingerprint sensor as a means to unlock mobile devices. It seems that the company, based on a recent patent application, is again developing a way to introduce a mechanism akin to the TouchID but this time for the smartwatch.
In the patent submitted by Apple before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company appears to be developing a new biometric sensor that can determine the identity of a wearable user based on his heart rate. The technology is based on the so-called photo plethysmography technology, which uses LED lights and sensors to measure blood that flows in a person's veins.
"Light emitters and light Receive motion sensors can be used to perform biometric identification information of a user based on identifying characteristics of the user's vasculature," Apple said.
Apple states that its invention relies on a pulse oximeter and is composed of a pair of light emitter and light sensors that are embedded in the wearable device. The technology simply emits light that penetrates the skin, hitting blood and other body parts in the process. It then records the amount of light that bounces back to the device. The measurement indicates the amount of blood in the user's skin and this data is critical when conducting pulse readings.
The information recorded through the pulse oximeter is then used to evaluate biometric characteristics, a process that can be implemented when authenticating a user's identity.
Aside from the ability to unlock wearable devices, the new vascular identification technology is also expected to be used during Apple Pay transactions. According to Apple Insider, these capabilities could mean that the Apple Watch is increasingly becoming less reliant on the iPhone.
Presently, it is not yet known whether Apple has already built a prototype. The vascular identification patent itself was filed last May and there are no leaked images or rumors floating that an actual technology is in the works. It is also important to remember that Apple often submits patents and a number of these remain on paper, never becoming real products. A similar vascular identification patent application was also filed in Europe last year.
However, if Apple is indeed bent on rolling out the new biometric sensor for the Apple Watch, the company has to build complementing technologies that could ensure that it is accurate. One can only turn to the way TouchID works. In order to provide precise data, it has to work with several sensors in Apple devices such as the gyroscope, accelerometers and GPS to evaluate and produce biometric data. Due to its small form factor, there is a challenge involved in outfitting the Apple Watch with numerous sensors to guarantee that the vascular ID technology will work effectively.