Having pioneered smartphone fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, Apple may turn next to palm reading as an additional biometric modality, suggests a patent filed by the company earlier this year.
As AppleInsider reports, the patent was filed in January, and details how sensors under the display of an iPhone or iPad could be used to scan palm vein patterns as well as data pertaining to creases in the user’s palm. This would be done through the use of infrared light projecting through a photodiode layer of the device’s screen.
Compared to fingerprint scanning and especially facial recognition, this would be a potentially cumbersome means of biometric identification, given that it requires a somewhat awkward form of interaction from the user, and effectively blocks the user’s view of the screen. But Apple’s patent notes that this palm-based authentication could be combined with Apple’s Face ID facial recognition system, suggesting that it’s envisaged more as a component of an extra-secure authentication system than as a default modality on its own.
Also noteworthy is a diagram in the patent filing showing this system in play on an Apple Watch device. Such an application might make more sense, given the difficulty involved in housing the components needed for Face ID or even Touch ID in the wearable’s relatively small form factor.
That having been said, Apple files a lot of patents, and many of the technologies described in them never see the light of day in terms of integration into actual Apple products. This patent could be another one of those cases, but what it does indicate is that Apple’s engineers are still exploring new and alternative forms of user authentication. Face ID isn’t necessarily the end of the story.