Last summer, Apple acquired AuthenTec, a Florida-based smart sensor company known for its embedded security and identity management technology. The news of the acquisition has sparked speculation that we will see fingerprint sensors in future iOS devices.
And Apple itself is adding fuel to that fire today, with a new job listing posted on its website. Apparently the Cupertino company is looking for a software engineer to join its team of fingerprint sensor engineers down in Melbourne, Florida at AuthenTec’s headquarters…
The newly available position was spotted by AppleInsider this morning. And it calls for a candidate with the ability to write “low-level code to configure and control hardware,” who will be working on software called “LabTool” that is used for sensor integrated circuits.
Here’s the description from the listing:
1. LabTool – Develop, maintain, update and optimize the “LabTool” software that is used for lab evaluation and characterization of the Melbourne Design Center sensor ICs. This includes adding new features as specified by the analog and digital design engineers. Updating the tool to work with new sensors. Automating lab test and characterization. Provide support and debug capability to all groups within Apple that use the tool.
2. FA Software for End of Line Module Test – Develop and maintain software that allows module suppliers to run FA on failing modules. Update the software as specified by the module team.
3. Firmware – Learn to write low-level control firmware for the MDC sensor ICs. Firmware development will include sensor functions such as array control, gain control, calibration and security. Firmware will also be developed as part of the DV process to test the design as well as to augment, and accelerate, ATE testing.
4. DV – As a long term goal, become familiar with the DV flow and support the DV team as required including developing targeted tests, testbench development, regressions and debug, code coverage and all other aspects of the MDC DV methodology.
There’s a lot of industry terminology in there, but the gist of the position is that Apple is looking for a software engineer with working knowledge of different types of sensors to add to its AuthenTec team. And from there, it’s not hard to guess why: perhaps product integration?
While we haven’t seen any real evidence, we have heard a number of reports claiming that the next-gen iPhone, presumably the iPhone 5S, is going to house a built-in fingerprint sensor. The feature would help with authentication for mobile transactions and device security.
Apple’s been very active with AuthenTec since its purchase, selling off its embedded security group and cutting off service for all non-Apple customers of its fingerprint technology. This has left the iPad-maker with exclusive rights to the sensor tech and its intellectual property.
The question is, what’s it going to do with it?