Apple patent involves facial recognition on devices such as the iPhone

The Sellers Research Firm (that’s me) is 99% sure that, despite some rumors, Apple isn’t ditching Touch ID on the upcoming “iPhone 8” in place of facial recognition identification. However, the next generation smart phone may boast both technologies. Apple has been granted a patent (number 20170199997 for “embedded authentication systems in an electronic device.” (Interestingly, the graphics for the article also show a Mac. Hmmmm.)

The authentication system may include one or more sensors operative to detect biometric information of a user. The sensors may be positioned in the device such that the sensors may detect appropriate biometric information as the user operates the device, without requiring the user to perform a step for providing the biometric information such as facial recognition instead of providing a fingerprint sensor in a separate part of the device housing). 

electronic devices are used to store personal information. One approach for preventing unauthorized people from accessing and viewing the user's personal information may be to require users of the electronic device to provide a password or pass code prior to enabling device functions or accessing device resources. Another is technology for detecting a user's fingerprint.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that, while both of these approaches may be useful, restricting access based on a password or pass code is effective only so long as no other user knows the password or pass code. Once the password or pass code is known, the restriction mechanism may become ineffective. Also, a password or pass code may be forgotten, thus locking an authorized user out of the device. In addition, requiring a user to provide a fingerprint or submit to a retina scan may be time consuming and bothersome for the user, requiring an additional step before the user can access the device. 

While this approach is more secure than entering a password or pass code, it comes at a cost in hardware (e.g., the necessary scanner, detector, or reader) and time. It would be desirable therefore, to provide an electronic device by which biometric and other authentication mechanisms are implemented in the device such that the device authenticates the user quickly and seamlessly, for example as the user turns on, unlocks or wakes the device. One such possibility: facial recognition.

Of course, 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.