Meet the Australian biometrics company working with Apple on ID technology
The head of an Australian biometrics company which scored a key contract with Apple says the future of mobile technology will be closely linked with fingerprint scanning and other ID tech, especially as phones and payment systems become entwined.
The revelation that Australian firm Microlatch has been working with Apple on a contract for the past year is yet another sign the tech giant is becoming serious about identification technology – Apple purchased American fingerprint scanning firm AuthenTech earlier this year.
It's also a testament to the strength of the local tech scene.
Microlatch managing director Chris Burke told SmartCompany this morning the partnership with Apple is a way of promoting a security component for the iPhone maker, but also said the real revolution will come with payment mechanisms.
While Burke said he could not disclose any specifics about the Apple contract, he said the inclusion of NFC (near field communications) payment systems will mark a big change for his industry.
"Everything is a phase, and this is a good first step. PINs are not going to suffice given the type of security that we need."
"We're storing so much information on these valuable devices, and they're becoming more sensitive."
Microlatch has been operating in Australia for five years, but its story started a decade ago when it secured key patents around its biometric technology. Investors include former Future Fund head David Murray, who has publicly stated his interest in the connection between biometrics and payment systems.
It manufactures identification systems and biometric devices for security. But Burke says the company's interest began in the automotive sector.
"It got me thinking about 10 years ago, to integrate a biometric device to stop car theft. But obviously, that was before the proliferation of smartphone devices."
Fingerprint scanning technology is nothing new – it's been around for years. But the current tech scene is filled with security concerns as smartphones start becoming more of a personal computer and less of a calling device.
It's a trend Apple clearly recognises. Last month, the company spent over $US360 million on fingerprint scanning company AuthenTec. It's one of the largest sums the company has paid for an acquisition – a testament to how seriously Apple is taking the matter.
Although Chris Burke says the future may present opportunities to combine biometric scanning and payment technology, there are already plenty of hints Apple is experimenting here.
It continues to mention the company has over 430 million credit card numbers, with those customers able to make one-click purchasing.
Its latest app, Passbook, allows users to combine coupons and loyalty cards, even board passes. Although the company has been accused of missing the mark in not including NFC technology in the iPhone 5, the Passbook app is seen as a possible precursor to a payment scheme.
Burke says future payment schemes using mobile devices are where the real growth will be – and where his company can expect to find ongoing, and lucrative, new ventures.
"I'm really excited in the payment systems architecture that we see on mobiles. The next stage after having a mobile with a lot of information is to actually control cash on it, then you're talking about a highly valuable product."
"It opens up a lot of new territory in that regard."