The gadget world has been a buzz since Apple announced their latest installment of their flagship device, the iPhone. Known to the world as the iPhone 5S, the new handset represents the update on the fifth generation of iPhone. Like many car manufacturers do mid product cycle, the iPhone 5S comes with a series of incremental upgrades aimed at convincing the loyal Apple and iPhone fan base to make their annual upgrade, boosting Apple’s revenue just prior to the holiday shopping season.
There have been mixed reviews of the iPhone 5S from the tech and gadget community, but two new features captured my attention. Enhancements that start to give me hope in the role of the mobile device in our daily lives. Enhancements that, if used together, create a synaptic fusion of possibilities. Those features are the new M7 chip and the fingerprint reader.
Separately, these two seem at best gimmicky. First we have the M7 chip aimed directly at the qualified self movement that has given rise to FitBit, Nike+ Fuel bands and the Jawbone Up . A dedicated M7 motion co-processor, industry watchers’ minds all jumped to the same place: this is the chip that will empower Apple’s upcoming “iWatch.” It seems inevitable, of course, but the M7 is something more much more than that — according to ABI Research analyst Patrick Connolly, in fact, the iPhone's new chip represents the future of indoor location-based services. Designing to process motion data from GPS, accelerometers and gyroscope, the digital compass and other sensors, are not new for smartphones. What makes the iPhone's M7 impressive is the ability to have your iPhone measuring these data points throughout the day without major drain on the battery. Thusly, we soon will have access to daily-qualified data at a deeper, richer more complete level. Great for those of us that want t know how far we travel on a daily basis, where we've traveled, the amount of calories we've burnt in the day, an so on. I’d expect later this year to see a strong collaboration between Nike and Apple that will drive accelerated adoption by consumers into Nike’s Plus ecosystem. Great for Nike.
However the iPhone's M7 has applications that could be far more transformational that just counting our Nike+ Fuel. By applying that same data to something that has been close to my heart for some time now. The transforming of identity frameworks, as we understand them.
Today identity in most industries in based on a static transactional verification, matching known secret personal information, identity chips and secret PINs in a rigid framework that has been prone to fraud, identity theft and left us all paranoid about our personal information online. Similar frameworks are used in banking, government and even corporate security polices. With the most advanced being the EMV Chip card present framework used by the card schemes. The challenge with these frameworks has always been that the points of verification are static. Hence are open to being replicated. While replication is far from easy, it is theoretically possible. Hence the global scare campaigns around information like date of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc. But imagine if your identity was dynamic, constantly evolving based on something that’s never static. I give you the concept of behavioural identity.
Behavioural identity isn’t new for the Web 2.0 world. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter already implementation behavioural pattern formation and raise flags when something appears to be outside your norm. Such as using a new computer, logging in from a new country or simultaneous connections. The M7 chip means that your device, and potentially Apple, can build a near bulletproof profile of your behaviour that includes real-time geographic, network and movement data as components of your identity framework. Quiet a compelling leap forward for a world in which 75% of us have our mobile phone within three feet of us as all times. So when you sign into Facebook, or make a payment through mCommerce/mPayments, your iPhone 5S can verify that you are in a location and have moved to that location in a pattern that is a foreseeable possibility.
Granted, in isolation this is only verifying that your iPhone is in the correct location. By the M7 could in theory go as far as measuring and learning handling and input movements. So the way you hold your phone, the way you pull it out of your pocket, the pattern of your stride, even the typing pattern you use become key inputs into the device learning, understanding and verifying that the person using the iPhone is in fact, you. The best bit is all this can happen without any impact to the experience of the device. Am I starting to stretch your imagination? I hope not, cause I’m only just getting started. Many of the things I’ve mentioned already exist in most smart phones, and have been implemented in various applications. But they always drain the battery. Can the M7 be the saviour?
Let’s take it a step further. The iPhone 5S also include the finger print reader known as Touch ID. A 500ppi fingerprint sensor right in the iPhone 5S’ home button. Apple is hardly the first to bring a fingerprint sensor to a smartphone — Motorola Mobility baked one such sensor into the back of its 2011 flagship the Motorola Atrix, which allowed users to swipe their fingers across it to unlock the device. The crucial issue though was that the sensor itself seemed awfully finicky and wouldn’t always correctly accept a user’s finger inputs.
Fingerprint reading is kind of cool, but has historically been hit by implementation issues that hamper adoption and user experience. But let’s assume for a second that Apple, a company known for taking user experience very seriously, has designed and implementation fingerprint technology in their new iPhone that overcomes these issues.
The home button is now made of sapphire glass to reduce the potential for damaging one of the 5S’ most notable features, and it’s bounded by a steel “detection ring” that determines when your finger is on the home button and fires up the Touch ID sensor. Touch ID is also capable of keeping tabs of multiple different fingerprints, so you (hopefully) won’t have to worry about your friends buying embarrassing songs on your iPhone with a single touch.
In the days after Apple’s announcement, there were hundreds of articles and blog posts saying Touch ID will mean the end of passwords. And yes, that is entirely possible. Apple’s implementation appears to work like Keychain on the Mac, where the device itself will store a series of secure data to unlock all your protected services, like your Facebook credentials, email passwords, or application credentials. But Touch ID becomes super powerful when coupled with the possibilities of the M7 chip.
I spoke of the iPhone M7’s ability to build behavioural and movement profiles of the user that can be used for identity. But these are all based on the idea of reducing residual risk. However, if paired with technology of fingerprint identification, the Touch ID and M7 combo appears to be truly transformational. Building identity and authentication frameworks into seamless technology, that literally (to quote the late Steve Jobs) ‘get out of the way’ of experiences.
A brilliant example is, imagine you take a trip to New York from your home in London. Upon arrival at JFK Airport you realise you’ve forgotten to book a hotel. You jump on a public computer in the airport, get onto HotelTonight.com and find something that suits your budget and needs. Being both a new country and a public computer is a dangerous mix in the eCommerce domain. In this case however (with the correct use of the M7 and Touch ID), your booking and deposit can verify that you are in fact ‘reasonably’ close to the public computer, the walking pattern of the person currently holding you iPhone matches that of your walk and finger tip used recently matches yours. And if any of these didn’t match, the booking or payment could be declined. Near bulletproof in a scenario that the banks struggle with. And best of all, it could help the industry bypass the current ransom requirements by the Mobile Operators that hampers NFC.
Exciting times ahead in the world of identity and authentication.