It’s not easy competing in a market that Apple is also operating in. During a new interview with The Telegraph, former Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside reveals how Apple effectively stymied the rest of the smartphone industry by buying up the best fingerprint recognition technology for its exclusive use.
“The secret behind [the dimple on the back of Google and Motorola’s Nexus 6 handset] is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier,” he explained. “So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren’t there yet.”
The supplier in question is biometric hardware maker AuthenTec, which powers Apple’s Touch ID technology. Apple acquired the company back in 2012 for a reported $356 million. The technology made its first appearance in 2013’s iPhone 5s, before being linked to mobile payments service Apple Pay with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
Dale Setlack, cofounder and then-CTO of AuthenTec, was profiled as part of our Fast 50 list in 2004. In an interview with Fast Company, Setlack explained how he perfected the fingerprint scanning technology by testing it on people in emergency rooms and prisons:
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.
While other phone manufacturers (Motorola included) have tried to replicate Apple’s Touch ID technology, none have managed to do so in a way that re-creates Apple’s reliability and accuracy. A Google changelog for the Nexus 6–filed back in August–confirms Woodside’s story that a fingerprint scanner was planned for the Nexus 6, but dropped relatively early on.
[via The Telegraph]