Brevard company's fingerprints all over new iPhone security

Published On: Sep 11 2013 11:03:47 AM EDT

Clues include a folder called “BiometricKit,” a string of code referencing users touching the home button with their thumb, in the new iOS7, and Apple’s $356 million acquisition of AuthenTec, a firm specializing in fingerprint-scanning technology.

MELBOURNE, Fla. -

As predicted months ago, Apple’s new iPhone 5s involves Brevard County engineering.

A key component of the phone, introduced by Apple Tuesday, is the “Touch ID” — a sensor beneath the home button that scans a user’s finger and verifies their identity for unlocking the phone.

“Touch ID” is based on a fingerprint sensor developed by AuthenTec, a Harris Corp. spinoff company that operated in Melbourne until Apple acquired its technology and licensing in July 2012.

Scott Moody, one of the co-founders of AuthenTec, said Tuesday there is a deep sense of pride at seeing Apple use the sensor for the iPhone. It’s exactly the type of use he and AuthenTec co-founder, Dale Setlak, envisioned for the technology when they founded the company nearly 15 years ago after leaving Harris.

“I think this is just the beginning of a lot of good things,” said Moody, who now lives in the North Carolina in the famed Research Triangle area.

“Clearly, it enables a whole lot of functionality and opportunity and security,” Moody said. “Our original idea was that this could be a ubiquitous part of life. I think Apple clearly is making that happen.”

Both the AuthenTec sensor and its security technology were major reasons why Apple acquired AuthenTec for $356 million. Many of AuthenTec’s engineers, now Apple employees, still work out of the former AuthenTec headquarters, 100 Rialto Place in Melbourne, furthering the sensor technology and its potential uses.

“Most of our former engineering talent is still with Apple working at Rialto Place,” Moody said. “They’re really some of the best engineers around.”

The new fingerprint scanner also can be used to make purchases on iTunes, and that’s expected to quickly grow to other functions in the years ahead.

“The new iPhone using fingerprint scanning to operate the phone and to buy things is opening up a new chapter in the smartphone world,” said Jeff Kagan, an Atlanta-based technology analyst and author

Apple said users’ fingerprints are encrypted and stored on the phones, not in the cloud or anywhere on the Internet.

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