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Patent suggests Apple Watch biometric authentication based on veins or other subdermal features


Apple has applied to patent a technology which could be used to secure the Apple Watch with biometric vein authentication.

Although Apple introduced millions of consumers to everyday biometrics with the Touch ID and Face ID features of its iPhones, Apple Watch is still unlocked by entering a PIN on the display. A patent application for a “Wearable Electronic Device Having a Light Field Camera Usable to Perform Bioauthentication from a Dorsal Side of a Forearm Near a Wrist,” published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, suggests using an array of light emitters and sensors to detect subdermal features to identify the wearer.

The watch form factor makes it difficult to find room for biometric sensors on the display side, the inventors write in the application, while the highly variable position of arm hair makes it difficult to gather biometric data from a sensor on the rear of the device as well. Vein pattern analysis seems to provide a potential solution, but capturing data from veins far beneath the surface of the skin the watch sits on could be difficult, particularly given the small area the sensor is likely to gather data from.

The application therefore mentions various features, including hair follicle patterns, vascular patterns, veins, arteries, blood perfusion in skin and tendons, fascia blood perfusion, tendons, connective tissue, skin pigmentation, small scale folding skin patterns, pores, and bone shapes, with one or more elements used for authentication.

Apple settled a patent infringement and breach of contract suite with biometric sensor maker Valencell earlier this year related to light-guided sensors and heart-rate biometrics. The consumer hardware giant has also filed a patent for biometric authentication based on skin texture for the Apple Watch, and more recently had a patent application published showing the use of vein recognition with Face ID.

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