Meet FingerLoc, AuthenTec’s bulky and unreliable Touch ID predecessor

By , Oct 16, 2013

Early Touch ID AuthenTec prototype

After Apple had snapped up AuthenTec, an Israel-based NFC and smart sensor maker, for about $400 million in the summer of 2012, speculation abounded as puzzled pundits couldn’t envision Touch ID coming. Shortly after, Apple told AuthenTec’s clients such as Samsung to buy their sensors elsewhere.

It also shuttered the startup’s Embedded Security Solutions division while tasking AuthenTec engineers with rethinking fingerprint scanning on mobile. The results were nothing short of amazing: Apple has managed to take competition by surprise by seamlessly integrating the sophisticated Touch ID sensor into the iconic Home button, a far cry from the unreliable solutions that require you to swipe the sensor.

One publication was lucky enough to have been invited to a private presentation of an early Touch ID prototype by the AuthenTec co-founder F. Scott Moody…

Moody spoke Tuesday night to students at North Carolina State University’s Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering and AppleInsider was in attendance.

He explained that Touch ID accuracy improves every time you use the feature:

We’re looking at pores, structures of ridges and valleys, and instantaneously tell who you are. Every time you use it, it learns more about you. Because it knows, ‘This is Alex,’ every time you use it gets easier and easier.

What you see above is AuthenTec’s early predecessor to Touch ID, called FingerLoc.

They pitched the prototype to IBM’s chief technology officer a few years back but the technology giant wasn’t impressed after FingerLoc incorrectly identified the executive as another AuthenTec co-founder, Dale Setlak.

“I joked that all CTO fingerprints look the same,” Moody said. “He didn’t buy it.”

Then came Apple and “ate it up,” said Moody.

It’s also interesting that AuthenTec worked closely with dermatologists to perfect how the sensor reads read sub-epidermal skin layers, according to the co-founder.

We had a great team of engineers — which I think is highlighted by the fact that Apple kept the engineering team.

I’m having a hard time getting my head around the fact they were able to take the prototype, improve the technology vastly and shrink it down to an 8-millimeter by 8-millimeter sensor found beneath the iPhone 5s’s Home button.

Heck, even the critical Consumer Reports sang praises to Touch ID.

Touch ID Home button

It’s a marvel of engineering, really.

Little wonder that Samsung is facing significant hurdles, with various reports putting its own Touch ID variant at least a year away.

It’s unclear whether the South Korean conglomerate is aiming to replicate Apple’s Home button integration or opt for HTC’s approach that calls for a dedicated fingerprint sensor on the back of the newly-announced One Max smartphone .

The Verge likened the solution to an “exercise in frustration,” noting that the sensor is in “exactly the wrong place”.

Although Apple wasn’t first to market with a fingerprint sensor, it’s bound to mainstream the technology by implementing it seamlessly across its mobile devices. Because Touch ID gives the iPhone 5s a competitive advantage, Android vendors are on high alert.

According to an article by USA Today, some sort of fingerprint scanning should become the norm on high-end Android devices in the next six months.

Are you using Touch ID on your iPhone 5s or has the novelty of it worn off?

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  • Rowan09

    I use touch id all the time, I prefer it over using a passcode. Touch ID is especially helpful when responding to a text, since we currently don’t have a quick reply option on the iPhone without a jailbreak. It would be hard to go back to using a passcode alone, I would most likely just leave my phone without a passcode.

    • Kevin Osborne

      I feel exactly the same way. Combining Touch ID with the faster processor of the 5s, I can respond to a text just as quickly as I could using biteSMS on my 4s. Also, I still have my 4s and use it as an iPod and stuff, and I find myself sometimes clicking the home button and “waiting” for it to unlock, shortly followed by me remembering I have to actually unlock my device the old-fashioned way. 😛

      • 4p0c4lyps3

        Very true, but oh how I miss my bite SMS:/

      • Kevin Osborne

        That makes two of us my friend. I still use it on my 4s with iMessage, though. At the same time, I do love my stock iPhone 5s just as much, if not more. It’s the first time I’ve decided to use the stock device before the jailbreak was released; every other time I’ve kept it in the box until it was jailbreakable. 😛

      • 4p0c4lyps3

        Ya, for certain. It’s taken a bit of getting used to an unJB’n device. My singular wish for ios7 JB is for zephyr to still work. Zephyr = my most missed JB tweak of all. Oh how I hate constantly double tapping my home button for multi task.

    • Antzboogie

      Agreed I just hope Apple protects our personal information even if we aren’t doing anything wrong. Freedom is something thats important to most of us.

  • chumawumba

    Can’t wait for Touch ID on Macs

  • Matthew Cooper

    I use it and I love it. I once abandoned Apple but after seeing touch ID in action I was sold. It’s seamless and this is the innovative Apple that I know and love. I am very excited for the bigger iPhone 6 with second gen touch ID

    • 4p0c4lyps3

      Here here. +1

  • Hussain Alsanona

    I love Touch ID and I’m using it all day long, but I hate it when I buy something from the app store it pop-up for every single app that I’m buying.

    • Eddie Leonard

      Does it not have a time limit like the password does? where you can buy 4 things and only need the password for the first purchase within the time window? I dont buy a lot of stuff from the App Store anymore…

      • Hussain Alsanona

        It seems there is a problem, maybe apple will fix it in the future.

    • Yunsar

      I think it might just be for the best

      • Hussain Alsanona

        It might be

  • 4p0c4lyps3

    Touch ID is nothing short of freakin amazing. Seemless integration and ease of use = ‘game changer.’ Simply amazing tech.

  • mehrab

    Touch id makes my android phones and older ios devices a bit weird when i unlock it