Apple snaps up NFC and smart sensors maker AuthenTec for $356 million

Apple has made an interesting acquisition, snapping up smart sensors maker AuthenTec in a transaction valued at $356 million, Reuters reported Friday. AuthenTec makes fingerprint sensor chips used in personal computers.

What’s more, its swipe sensors can read the live layer beneath the skin’s surface and comply with strict government standards. They also produce chips that utilize near-field communication (NFC) technology which is said to be a part of this fall’s iPhone hardware refresh…

Reuters reports that the deal, which was disclosed in AuthenTec‘s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission entails Apple paying $8.00 per share, a premium of 58 percent for AuthenTec‘s shares based on Thursday’s closing price of $5.07.

AuthenTec licenses its technology to the likes of Lenovo, Fujitsu and Dell and recently cut a deal with Samsung to use its technology to bolster enterprise security in the Galaxy maker’s upcoming Android smartphones and tablets.

From SnapTech’s website:

AuthenTec owns many of the foundational technology patents from the fingerprint biometric industry, and today has a broad IP and patent portfolio consisting of nearly 200 issued and filed U.S. patents, as well as additional foreign patent derivatives.

These include patents covering fingerprint sensors and sensor packaging, software and end use. AuthenTec technology serves as a strong foundation for the Company’s smart sensors, identity management software and embedded security.

As for the smart sensors the company makes:

AuthenTec‘s award-winning smart fingerprint sensors provide multiple touch-powered features that extend beyond user authentication to include convenience, personalization and touch control. The Company’s TouchChip area fingerprint sensors and modules comply with government and industry standards and offer the ruggedness, strong security and ease of integration needed for quick and broad deployment.

Sounds like Apple has gotten hold of some interesting tech here.

So, you’ll be able to just swipe your finger across a sensor to unlock a future iPhone? Not so fast. If SeekingAlpha is right, Apple is adding a biometric sensor “so that the iPhone can become a safe and secure payment device”. MacRumors points at one specific sensor by AuthenTen which is marketed for use specifically for authentication for mobile wallets.

Numerous patent filings have made known Apple’s intentions to use NFC in future products. A massive NFC-related patent discovered yesterday describes a number of use cases for NFC-powered iPhones, including connected homes and the ability to control a variety of consumer electronics products.

According to “trusted sources” and strings discovered in the iOS Beta code, the next iPhone could easily incorporate an NFC chip. Another related patent indicates that Apple is interested in pursuing this technology.

Apple was also granted key patents for iTravel and iWallet software that could take advantage of NFC hardware and the Passbook application in iOS 6, which now serves as a central repository for e-tickets, discount coupons and stuff like that.

What do you make of this acquisition?