A universal Apple remote with Touch ID could control your smart home, iDevices and more

Apple is researching a universal remote with a Touch ID fingerprint scanner that could simplify entering passwords and controlling smart home appliances and other devices.

New Apple TV Siri Remote

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Apple wins a patent for an Apple TV remote with a Touch ID button
  • Such a thing would let you enter passwords on your Apple TV faster
  • Such a remote could also control a bunch of other accessories
  • Many Apple patents remain just that, patented concepts

How about an Apple TV remote with Touch ID?

When an Apple TV app or the tvOS operating system asks for a password, like your login details in a video-streaming app or your Apple ID password, you can manually enter the requested information or use the AutoFill feature to enter passwords on your Apple TV, straight from your iPhone or iPad. Read: How to use AutoFill Passwords on Apple TV

Apple's patent drawing showing a universal remote with a Touch ID button
Image credit: Apple / USPTO

But that could change in the future if Apple decides to release a universal Apple TV remote with Touch ID for which it has been granted a patent by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). Spotted by PatentlyApple and published on the USPTO website, the patent titled “Electronic device operation using remote user biometrics” outlines a remote control with “at least one biometric sensor” embedded into it.

In many cases, electronic devices may include access limitation features such as passcodes or passwords to prevent inappropriate modification of settings. For example, a television may require a passcode to tune particular channels. In still other examples, a home security system may require a password to cancel a false alarm.

A Touch ID remote would make it easier to enter passwords into tvOS apps, but Apple’s invention doesn’t stop there. The patent text goes on to detail a multi-purpose remote that could control smart home devices such as thermostats, heaters and air conditioners, as well as health accessories, sports devices and more.

The patent credits as its inventors Mike Divincent, Apple’s Senior Director of Human Engineering Mike Divincent, RubĂ©n Caballero (Apple’s Vice President of Engineering for 14 years, now with Microsoft), and Human Factors Engineering lead, Nicole Hollopeter.

How an Apple TV Touch ID remote would work

Apple continues:

Remembering and correctly communicating passwords or passcodes to enjoy limited access features of electronic devices may diminish the quality of the experience of an authorized user. In certain cases, the user may be additionally frustrated when directed to enter a passcode or password via a small remote control or a compact input panel.

The issued patent does not mention Touch ID by its name, but fingerprint” is mentioned a bunch of times. In one instance, the patent states that “the biometric characteristic comprises a fingerprint.” In another one, it specifically states that an embedded sensor would be “configured to detect a biometric characteristic of a user.”

It dives into details of how a remote with Touch ID would detect a fingerprint match and send securely communicate with a host device wirelessly. Other implementations of the invention could use other types of biometric sensors, such as a vein imaging sensor or an iris scanner, Apple states. Read: Troubleshooting tips for when Touch ID isn’t working

For example, the sensor may be included in a remote control for a television or, in other examples, the sensor may be included within a control panel for use with a home automation system.

The system could be used for other purposes than just password entry.

Other uses for an Apple TV Touch ID remote

A remote with Touch ID would also enable better multiuser experiences.

Manually controllable features of electronic devices may provide a personalized experience for a user. However, many electronic devices may be intended to be enjoyed by multiple users. For example, multiple members of a household may share a single television.

Wireless Touch ID debuted on Apple’s wireless keyboard bundled with the redesigned 24-inch iMac (it’s also available standalone). From a technical standpoint, an Apple TV remote with Touch ID would be very similar to Apple’s wireless keyboard with Touch ID.

When will Apple turn this patent into a real product?

Technology companies like Apple often patent inventions as a defensive strategy. Sometimes, some of Apple’s granted patents end up being used in real-life products.

Given the extensiveness of this particular patent, the fact that it’s now officially awarded to Apple and taking into account how Touch ID has expanded to Apple keyboards and power buttons (iPad Air 4, for example), we think that we’ll soon get an Apple TV remote with an integrated Touch ID fingerprint scanner.