Sensors are wonderful things. It bridges the physical world & the digital world. We’ve seen what developers have done with the proximity sensor, accelerometer, the gyrometric sensor and the light sensor on the iPhone.
The impact of the new iPhone sensor, Touch ID, on the security and access control industry will be massive. Last year, I’d written how your smartphone will be the new swipe card in coming times. Back then, the idea was that NFC enabled devices will make that possible. NFCs are making slow progress. But if the industry’s reaction to the previous iPhone launches are anything to go by, fingerprint scanners will be common on most devices soon. New access control systems can read security information stored on practically any device.
Even if Apple won’t give direct access to the sensor to developers, it could be evaluating possibilities of a few closed applications of the technology. Cities and municipalities might be interested in working on a few security & forensic applications. How else does one explain that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s spokesman knew so much about the biometric sensors?
Now, the more important part.
Aadhaar & micropayments using iPhone
For the uninitiated, Aadhaar is a government led project which wants to give 1.2 billion Indians an identification number which can be authenticated online. The identification number is uniquely matched to each individual’s biometric prints including fingerprints and iris.
The Aadhaar API, allows you to pass a biometric value (according to specifications) and the Aadhaar number to uniquely identify a person. Aadhaar numbers are also linked to bank accounts! Agreed that even the cheapest iPhone is expensive by Indian standards to make an iPhone based micropayment system the de facto standard. However, layered with an application that can query the Aadhaar database, these can be used as POS solutions. Telecom companies will soon allow Aadhaar based authentication for new mobile connections. Aadhaar has also rolled out other authentication services. Assuming that fingerprint scanners become ubiquitous on new smartphones, things could change drastically for India, world’s third largest smartphone market!
Note that I haven’t gone picking faults yet. There could be various issues including the ones relating to privacy and mismatch of standards.
What’s the hitch?
Developers won’t have access to the Touch ID sensor yet. Apple’s Senior Vice President Phil Schiller told AllThingsD that developers won’t have access to use fingerprint for authentication. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook told them: “You can probably imagine a lot of [other] uses.”
So there is some hope.
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