A new US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing has shed light on why Apple bought security firm AuthenTec earlier this year.
According to SEC filing PREM14A, Apple received the patent rights to the security firm's 2D fingerprint sensor technologies during its purchase. The patents awarded to Apple point to AuthenTec's technologies' potential use in iPhone and iPad devices.
Apple and AuthenTec sat down to discuss terms in February, but at the time the companies couldn't come to an agreement. However, last May Apple came back to AuthenTec and offered to buy the security firm outright. The companies were able to agree terms and Apple bought AuthenTec for $356m last July.
Among the technologies Apple now owns is a type of fingerprint scanner designed for mobile products with Near Field Communication (NFC) built in. AuthenTec's AES2750 product is a fingerprint scanner that can interact with NFC applications to offer a secure way to log in to various systems.
AuthenTec says the technology can lock and unlock a phone, authorise mobile banking transactions and replace website user names and passwords, all with a fingerprint scan.
"This is a highly complementary solution to NFC m-commerce smartphones, compatible with today's NFC and Secure Element subsystems to provide strong transaction security with an ease of use and convenience exceeding PIN/password or pattern-based security," said AuthenTec's vice president of smart sensor solutions Art Stewart.
"Early feedback from smartphone and tablet OEMs has been very positive, particularly about sensor aesthetics and security, and we already have design wins for this 'made for mobile commerce' sensor."
AuthenTec's fingerprint scanner technology could be used in a point-of-purchase UI Apple patented in 2008. Apple's patent covers a smartphone UI which can communicate with NFC and biometric inputs.
Apple has a history of putting technology developed by other firms in their devices. The company bought the voice recognition company Siri in 2010 and put the firm's technology into the iPhone 4S a year later.
NFC technology has seen an up-tick in use over the past year. Google uses the tech in certain Android devices, like the Nexus 7 tablet. Apple also introduced its own NFC technology earlier this year with the release of iOS 6's PassBook app.
Apple was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.
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