New Apple patent would use heart rate data to identify Apple Watch owner

By , Oct 13, 2016

Apple Watch heart rate monitor 001

Currently, you can protect your Apple Watch with a passcode or set it to automatically unlock itself whenever you unlock your iPhone. But if a newly published patent application from the Cupertino firm is anything to go by, the wearable device may soon be able to seamlessly identify the owner with its built-in heart rate sensor.

As published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), the invention titled “User identification system based on plethysmography” proposes using a pulse oximeter to intelligently identify biometric characteristics of a user’s vasculature.

According to the patent abstract, a light emitter and light sensor pair (as used in the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor) can be used to determine one or more defining characteristics of a user’s vasculature simply by measuring the percentage of oxygenated blood in their body.

Light information received from the sensor would be compared to stored information associated with a user’s identity. Based on that comparison, a user of the device can be identified as having the correct user identity.

Apple’s solution goes even further in that motion data from onboard sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes could be used to determine when you raise your wrist. The wrist raise event would automatically trigger the proposed biometric authentication process and unlock the device as soon as its screen comes to life.

Currently, the Apple Watch’s photosensors blast light to your skin and blood.

The sensors measure the amount of light absorbed and reflected back to determine the amount of blood in your skin, a crucial piece of data for deriving pulse readings from.

Apple Insider speculates that Apple’s proposed solution could theoretically be applied to existing Apple Watch hardware by way of a software update:

Apple Watch already uses a two-emitter setup—for accuracy, each of the two sensor setups are tuned to emit and pickup different wavelengths of light—based on plethysmography technology.

Whether vascular variances at the wrist are diverse enough to create a secure biometric system is unclear, though veins in fingers have been used in such applications for years.

The invention was first filed for in May 2016 and credits Apple engineer Daniel J. Culbert as its inventor.

Source: USPTO via AppleInsider

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  • Mike M. Powell

    how bout….we use that but instead heart monitor to identify to user/owner…how bout fingerprints? .-.

  • Ángel Javier Esquivel

    Ok, Apple’s getting creepier.

    • How do you figure? At it’s most basic form it amounts to looking at something unique to you and saving it to verify identity later. Fundamentally, that’s also what a fingerprint scanner does (or do those creep you out too?).

      Now if Apple were collecting all this data on their servers and selling it or building large medical profiles of all it’s users that would be creepy.

      • Ángel Javier Esquivel

        Well, that’s one way to see it. And it sounds less creepy.

  • Personally I’d love to see Apple ditch the green lights in favor of using red ones. According to one company, not only do they allow sensors to see 10x deeper into skin tissue but they also don’t have issues with tattoos or very dark skin tones.

    Actually, that company is using them to provide realtime hydration monitoring which is so cool I’m considering ditching my Apple watch when their new product becomes available next year.

    Guess I’ll be “watching” apple to see what the 3rd gen holds to see if they can win me back 😛

  • The shit already automatically unlocks when I unlock my phone. It literally doesn’t get any easier than that.

    • Kaptivator

      May be something bigger is in the pipeline?

    • :D

      What if someone else is wearing it while you unlock your phone and you don’t realise

      That’s why I turned that feature off. We should at least get a notification on our phone

      • That doesn’t happen often at all. Not for enough ppl. If you buy a watch it’s for you, not really something to be shared.

      • :D

        There’s always the chance that someone takes it from your room while it’s charging and puts it on in hopes of reading all your notifications (I live with some really nosy people). Or someone might even try to get access to Apple Pay. You might not intend to share it per se but it simply gets taken without you knowing. I think a notification on the iPhone wouldn’t really hurt anyone at the least every time it’s unlocked.

        But yeah this heart rate thing seems a bit pointless if it’s only used for unlocking.

    • Leslie Bee

      Now with imbedded GPS, there might be times you don’t have your iPhone with you. You might be jogging, then remove your watch for a moment to wipe off some sweat. Or you might want to shake water off after a swim.