Apple plans to acquire biometric hardware maker AuthenTec for $356 million, Reuters reports.
Dale Setlack, co-founder and then-CTO of AuthenTec was on our Fast 50 list in 2004. He told Fast Company that it was only through extensive testing of existing fingerprint scanning technology at emergency rooms and prisons that he achieved the breakthrough in his product design:
To gauge how well fingerprint technology at the time performed in varying environments, Dale tested inmates and emergency room patients. He concluded that although prison life was harsh, the health of the majority of inmates was very good, and that the surfaces of their fingers were healthy, and not "contaminated." However, patient fingerprints in emergency rooms were not nearly as easy to read using conventional technologies and were often cut, bloody or worn. Attemping to identify people by their fingerprints under such conditions proved to be a difficult task. Dale realized that the answer to getting a "true" print resided under the dead, outer layer of skin, at the live layer--and that in order to identify someone using optical or capacitive fingerprint imaging technology, the skin needed to be free of oil, debris, cuts, dirt, and scarring. This led Dale to the conceptualization, development and implementation of TruePrint technology.
The Florida company makes semiconductor-based fingerprint scanners that use radio waves to ID living tissue behind whorls of dry, worn, or scabbed skin. (It can also differentiate between a dead digit and alive one.)
In August 2011, AuthenTec's fingerprint readers were part of a fingerprint-enabled NFC payment transaction, which the company claims was a first for the U.S.
While Apple may be interested in AuthenTec for its fingerprint scanners and its payment applications, it could also have uses in mind for another piece of AuthenTec hardware called TrueNav. TrueNav, which AuthenTec describes as a "next generation solution for fluid on screen graphic and menu navigation" is a low-power tech that tracks finger movements on a touch screen.
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[Image: Flickr user Chris Isherwood]