Patent report: voice authentication of Apple devices, encryption methods

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are today’s patent highlights:

You may soon be able to activate your Mac or iOS device simply by speaking to it. Apple has been granted a patent (number 20160119338) for “device access using voice authentication.” 

According to the invention, a device can be configured to receive speech input from a user. The speech input can include a command for accessing a restricted feature of the device. The speech input can be compared to a voiceprint (e.g., text-independent voiceprint) of the user's voice to authenticate the user to the device. 

Responsive to successful authentication of the user to the device, the user is allowed access to the restricted feature without having to perform additional authentication steps or speaking the command again. If the user isn’t successfully authenticated to the device, additional authentication steps can be request by the device (e.g., request a password or Touch ID).

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 20160119312) for “encryption methods and apparatus.” The invention is for updating and encrypting passwords for one or more computing devices. The computing devices — Macs, iPhones, and iPads — can be associated with a common user account. 

The user can update a password of the user account at one computing device, and log into another computing device using the updated password without having to provide the current password for the other computing device. 

The embodiments incorporate a variety of encryption and key generation methods in order to safely transmit password updates between local computing devices. Specifically, the embodiments set forth methods and apparatus for generating and storing breadcrumbs that allow for decrypting a current password of a computing device using a new password.