This newly approved patent from Apple caught us by surprise today. It is rare that you find patents that deal with vein based authentication systems. The newly approved patent provides a glimpse into next generation of biometric authentication systems.
Apple patent 9,971,948 was approved today (May 15,2018) and is related to an Imaging apparatus that can help create an image of blood vessels located right beneath the body surface.
According to the published patent, this new imaging device consists of an optical transmitter that can emit pulses of infrared radiation that are targeted towards the body surface. An optical receiver embedded in the device then captures the reflected pulses from the body surface and is able to generate an output that is related to the modulation of the pulses by tissue below the body surface.
Using an embedded processor to process these signals, the imaging device is able to create an image of the blood vessels located beneath the body surface.
Why the veins? As opposed to Finger prints and now the much prevalent FaceID.
Inventors of this Apple patent believe that Hand vein authentication is considered to have a high level of authentication accuracy due to the complexity of the vein patterns in the hand.
Because the vein patterns are internal to the body, they are difficult to counterfeit. Furthermore, vein imaging is contactless and therefore alleviates hygienic concerns that are associated with common systems that use fingerprints or handprints.
A complex pattern of blood vessels runs close beneath the skin of the face, and detection of this pattern under infrared illumination could be used, for example, to enhance the reliability of facial authentication.
In investigating this technique, however, the inventors have found that specular reflection of the infrared rays from the most useful areas of the face, such as the forehead, tends to mask and severely reduce the contrast of the blood vessel image, particularly when the skin is moist or oily.
On the other hand, the inventors have discovered that when the skin is illuminated with very short pulses of infrared radiation, it is possible to detect a marked difference in the modulation of the pulses by the blood in subcutaneous vessels and the surrounding tissue.
Although the concept of a portable vein imaging is not new and can be found in most hospitals today, the application of the technology with regards to biometric identification is definitely a new use case.
This patent was originally filed by Apple in late 2015 and was approved today.