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Apple exploring mobile digital ID and wearable authentication tech


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Two new patent filings signal that Apple is venturing into mobile device-embedded digital ID as well as wearable devices that include biometric sensors and motion-tracking for instant user authentication.

Patent application hints digital ID, ePassport, and mDL for iPhones/mobile devices

According to a new patent application, Apple might be exploring mobile user authentication for digital ID, mobile driver’s license (mDL), and ePassports. The specifications include the implementation of such a solution on Apple’s iPhone, allowing the mobile device to authenticate individual users in various scenarios such as age verification or travel.

The application explains, “Various governments are now issuing various forms of identification that are capable of storing identification information that can be used to authenticate a user. For example, modern passports (called e-Passports) may include an electronic chip that stores a passport holder’s name, date of birth, and other forms of information. When a person is passing through customs, the person may present the passport to a customs officer, who places the passport on a reader to extract information stored in the passport. Upon verifying the information printed on the passport against the internally stored information, the officer may confirm the identity of the holder and allow the holder passage through customs.”

The system in question would include a secure element, an NFC interface, a biosensor, a verification system, an authentication system, and an RFID tag for the ID document.

It further adds, “The present disclosure describes embodiments in which a person may present identification information through a mobile device instead of presenting a traditional form of identification. The present disclosure begins with a discussion about storing identification information (e.g., of a passport, driver license, government-issued ID, student ID, etc.) on a mobile device with respect to FIGS. 1-5B. The present disclosure then describes an authentication framework for performing a user authentication at the mobile device with respect to FIGS. 6 and 7.”

Apple continuation patent signals authenticated device assisted user authentication

A continuation patent signals Apple’s exploration of a system for authenticated device-assisted user authentication. The device might be worn in the form of a headband that would allow users to authenticate themselves instantly through their proximity to a device such as an Apple Watch, iPhone, or iMac that would require user authentication.

The application describes, “A system for user authentication includes an authenticated device with a restricted-access function that a user is able to access in response to verification of an identity of the user by the authenticated device and a proximate device with a restricted-access function that the user is able to access in response to the proximate device receiving authentication data that includes the identity of the user from the authenticated device. The authenticated device is operable to identify an absence of intent of the user to access the restricted-access function of the proximate device, and in response to identifying the absence of intent to access the restricted-access function of the proximate device, emit a locking signal such that, in response to detecting the locking signal, the proximate device enters a locked state and the restricted-access function of the proximate device is inaccessible to the user.”

The drawings detail a three-step authentication process that includes detection of the proximate device, determination of intent, and assisted authentication. The device might include one or more biometric sensors that would be used to confirm a user’s identity. User intent would be measured through motion-gesture tracking by the device.

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