Apple has been granted a major patent for mobile-based facial recognition technology, according to a Patently Apple article by Jack Purcher. Along with a slew of other patent approvals, Apple’s patent no. 8,994,499, “Locking and Unlocking a Mobile Device using Facial Recognition”, has just been certified by the US patent office.
In its essence, the invention is pretty straightforward. We know what this kind of system is – we’ve seen it before in applications such as Android’s Face Unlock feature – but it’s important because it signals an interest on Apple’s part to complement the fingerprint biometric user authentication already in place on all new mobile Apple devices. Security experts have long been advocating for multi-factor security – even better if it’s biometric – and this could provide just such a system for Apple’s range of smart devices.
It also helps in keeping Apple competitive with its rivals. Alipay has announced that it’s going to use facial recognition for user authentication in its upcoming mobile commerce and payment platform, and given the security concerns surrounding that particular modality, it’s quite possible it will be folded into a multi-factor authentication system. Meanwhile, Windows Hello takes a multi-factor biometric approach to security that incorporates facial recognition, and that software could appear in a number of different devices in the near future. For its part, Apple has always proven competitive in R&D, patents, and general technological competence, and it clearly aims to not be outdone when it comes to mobile facial recognition.