Apple's AuthenTec Buy Validates Biometrics, Valid Tech Says
Published: August 14, 2012
by Alex Woodie
The folks at IBM i biometric software maker Valid Technologies were heartened by the recent bid by Apple to buy biometric chip maker AuthenTec for $356 million. The CEO for Valid Tech, which uses AuthenTec's fingerprint matching technology in its flagship IBM i-based VSSA product, says the deal could help spur the adoption of biometric authentication.
Greg Faust, the founder and CEO of Boca Raton, Florida-based Valid Technologies, says its partnership with AuthenTec shouldn't be affected by its deal with Apple. Faust says he sees no reason why Apple wouldn't accept revenue from companies like Valid that OEM AuthenTec's technology--in this case, the "matcher" software that matches a person's fingerprint scan with the original scan that is on record, as well as the extractor software that pulls data from the fingerprint scan.
"There's no change of control clause in the licensing agreement," Faust tells IT Jungle. Apple didn't respond to Faust's request to clarify the deal, he says.
Companies like AuthenTec and SecuGen are typically more interested in selling biometric hardware than in making money from selling software that runs on the authenticating server. However, it's unlikely that Apple is buying AuthenTec to get into the market for biometric devices.
Even if there was a change in the partnership, Valid has deals in place with other makers of biometric matching and extracting software that can be put into VSSA, including AuthenTec competitor SecuGen. "It's not going to affect us in a negative way at all."
There has been much speculation over Apple's plans for AuthenTec. The most likely scenario has Apple embedding AuthenTec's fingerprint scanning chip directly onto the screen of iPads and iPhones. This would bolster a range of activities, including enterprise authentication, which has become a big problem in the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement. It could also bolster mobile payments. An alternative theory has Apple buying AuthenTec just to mess with mobile device rival Samsung, which had signed a big deal with AuthenTec for authentication on Android devices just prior to Apple's offer.
Whatever Apple's plans are, the $356 million it's put on the table has already helped to "validate" biometric authentication as a whole, Faust says. "Biometric is absolutely the way to do authentication, because nothing else makes any sense," he says.
Faust recounted a recent experience in which an acquaintance had downloaded a nifty icon to the log-in page of a social media website. "That's a keylogger," Faust told him. "You'll wake up one day to find your bank account cleared out." Passwords, also, are completely out of hand.
While it's clear to Faust that biometric authentication is the way we'll prove our identities in the future, he just wishes the future wouldn't take so dang long to get here. "i5 people have a tendency not to be early adopters," he laments. "It's been a painfully long time to get some adoption by big companies."
Once those large IBM i shops start seeing their competitors having good results with biometric authentication, they'll be ready to jump on the bandwagon. "All it takes is one domino to start falling," he says.
Apple's domino is a big one, and it could herald the beginning of a change in how we do authentication.
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