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Apple adds smartwatch, biometric payment capabilities to iPhone


After months of rumors and speculation in the press, Apple announced it will soon launch its new Apple Watch, a “smartwatch” featuring four sensors that will measure its user’s pulse. The company also unveiled its latest set of iPhones that have added biometric capabilities.

Available in early 2015, the new Apple Watch contains a set of four sensors, built into the back of the watch. Using a combination of photo sensors and infrared and visible-light LEDs, the watch can detect a user’s heart rate and compile a detailed log of the person’s daily activity based on biometric information.

The watch also contains an accelerometer that is used to track an individual’s movement. The Apple Watch connects to an iPhone, using the device’s Wi-Fi and GPS data to track where the individual is going.

In addition, the watch has a range of built-in health features in which the wearer is able to set specific fitness goals and check on how many calories they have successfully worked off. The Apple Watch also includes NFC and have the ability to make mobile payments.

Last year, Biometrics Research Group, Inc. projected that wearable health and fitness sensors would exceed 40 million shipments by 2015. As reported previously in BiometricUpdate.com, a wide range of other biometric fitness and healthcare applications have entered the market, including wireless and wearable activity and sleep trackers and even smartphone-enabled cardiograms.

The research firm expects the entire global biorhythm monitoring market to reach $100 million in sales by 2015. The research firm also predicted that Apple would attempt to revolutionize the market by introducing such a new product.

At the Apple media event held yesterday, Mayo Clinic also demonstrated the many benefits of Apple’s HealthKit framework.

BiometricUpdate.com reported last May that Apple was working on a mobile app designed to track healthcare and fitness levels. We at the time, we reported that the framework will be designed to measure biorhythms, defined simply as the “rhythms of life”, which include vital body functions. The application will be designed to track physical activity, respiratory rate, sleep, weight, heart rate, blood pressure, hydration, nutrition and blood sugar.

Apple first disclosed its partnership with Mayo at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. The companies have not yet revealed the details of a final integrated product, but Mayo’s presentation showed a patient taking blood pressure measurements, which then checks the data against previous personal results.

If the software finds an abnormal reading, it automatically sends the patient’s readings and history to their doctor to take the proper action.

The health-centric software framework provides a centralized storage and access database for medical records, aggregated data collected from wearable sensors, and other relevant biometric data that is useful to medical organizations.

Apple also announced that its new iPhone 6 smartphone and iPhone 6 Plus phablet would be available this October. Both will include NFC and a secure element that will store a user’s payment card data.

As BiometricUpdate.com previously reported, Apple had been preparing to launch its “Apple Pay” app for months, which would allow customers to use the iPhone’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor to verify their identity to securely and conveniently make retail purchases in stores. As we reported earlier this month, the company partnered with MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Capital One, a number of banks and 220,000 retailers, in order to develop the payment system.

Using the same credit card from their iTunes account or another card which the individual can add simply by taking a photo of it with the iPhone’s camera, consumers will be able to make purchases in-store by holding the phone to a contactless point-of-sale reader, which will authenticate the individual using Touch ID.

In the event that iPhone owners lose their phone, they can activate the “Find My iPhone” app to put the smartphone in lost mode, ensuring that all the data is inaccessible, or they can completely delete the iPhone’s hard drive.

Apple Pay will also be available to current iPhone users after the next software update in October.

Major players within the biometrics industry have been responding favourably to Apple’s new payment platform. Phil Dunkelberger, CEO of Nok Nok Labs said in a statement that: “We see today’s move by Apple as a significant step in the right direction towards modernizing online payments and addressing a major problem in today’s payment ecosystem using authentication as a key building block.” Nok Nok Labs specializes in secure authentication.

“We embrace Apple’s values and commitment in allowing their customers to strongly authenticate in a simple and secure fashion. Just as Apple has previously been a leader in driving the market for mobile applications, they are now in a position to allow their customers to conveniently and securely shop online,” Dunkelberger noted.

The Nok Nok Labs CEO however notes that further effort is need to enhance mobile security: “We need to focus on delivering a method that allows access to all online resources easily and securely, whether we are using an iPhone, an Android device, or a Windows PC. Only a unified approach, that supports all of the device manufacturers, operating systems, browsers, payment ecosystems, applications and authentication technologies, can meet the requirements of the modern computing age whether the particular need is for a secure online payment or accessing a medical record.”

Nok Nok Labs endorses FIDO Alliance-led security initiatives to help secure devices and transactions in the burgeoning mobile commerce space.

According to Forrester Research, commerce transactions in the United States completed on mobile phones and tablets are expected to total US$114 billion in 2014. Two-thirds of those sales, or about US$76 billion, are occurring on tablet computers, while the remainder are occurring on mobile phones. This equals nearly a third, or 29 percent, of all e-commerce transactions that occur. While mobile commerce is growing quickly, currently it only accounts for nine percent of total commerce transactions in the U.S. By 2018, Forrester Research projects that mobile commerce will account for 11 percent of all commercial transaction. Also by 2018, Forrester expects that mobile commerce transactions in the U.S. will total US$414 billion.

Biometrics Research Group, Inc. predicts that the inclusion of biometrics in mobile devices will generate about US$9 billion worth of revenue for the biometrics industry by 2018.

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