Apple has agreed to acquire security technology company AuthenTec for $356 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing made by AuthenTec.
AuthenTec is the leading supplier of smart sensors, identity management software and hardware, and embedded security devices such as fingerprint readers.
These fingerprint swipe sensors use a patented sub-surface technology to read the live layer of skin beneath the skin's surface where the fingerprint is first formed, making them much harder to fool than traditional fingerprint sensors.
Last year the company collaborated with NXP Semiconductors and mobile payment software firm DeviceFidelity to bring support for NFC mobile payments and transportation check-ins to Android smartphones.
AuthenTec's mobile VPN client is also pre-loaded onto Samsung's Galaxy S III Android-powered smartphone.
A feature that's conspicuous in its absence from Apple hardware is a fingerprint reader, it's also a feature that is much loved by enterprise because it both hardens device security while at the same time making access to a system quicker and easier than typing in a password. It's a checkbox feature commonplace on most Windows-powered enterprise-class hardware, and this acquisition now allows Apple to integrate this feature into both Macs and iOS devices.
The acquisition, along with earlier patents, also lends credibility to the rumors that Apple is planning to add NFC support to the iPhone 5. iOS 6 features a new app called Passbook which allows you to store your boarding passes, movie tickets, retail coupons, loyalty cards, and more all in one place. Passbook allows you to ditch the physical cards and tickets and instead scan your iPhone or iPod touch to check in for a flight, get into a movie, and redeem a coupon.
While Passbook is interesting, when combined with NFC technology it becomes a whole lot more interesting. It eliminates the hassle of having to dig out the iPhone, search through it for the right card or ticket and then scan the screen. While NFC on its own has been a solution looking for a problem to solve, Apple's way of leveraging technology through apps suddenly gives it relevance.
AuthenTec currently counts a number of Apple competitors as customers, including Samsung Electronics, LG, and Motorola.
Image source: AuthenTec.
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