Apple has filed a patent application, which sees iPhones becoming a “proof-of-identity”. The Cupertino-based iPhone maker has filed an application with the USPTO that envisions how the iPhone could store a person’s credentials.
The patent application titled “Document importation into secure element” was published by the USPTO on Wednesday. The filing details how an iPhone could use a short-range radio (NFC or RFID) and a secure element to authenticate users. The listing explains that the computing device reads a portion of credential information via the short-range radio, which is stored in a circuit embedded in an identification document issued by an authority.
When it is time to authenticate, the computing device issues a request to the authority to store the credential information. The device (in this case an iPhone) will store the credential in the secure element once the authority offers an approval. “In some embodiment, the identification document is a passport that includes a radio-frequency identification (RFID) circuit to store the credential information,” the patent file reads.
The patent application also notes that when there is a request from the authority for information, the iPhone owner could use either a password or a fingerprint or facial recognition (like the one on iPhone X) to authenticate their identity. The process will share the credential information with the authority requesting for information.
The application of such a feature could be endless, and might serve well for companies that restrict access to certain areas of their factory. Instead of carrying an access ID, employees can simply walk in with their iPhone and authenticate themselves using their mobile device.
The patent filed by Apple notes the possible use of this system to release a person’s passport number to a customs official, even if the person does not possess the passport with them. The iPhone owner would first authenticate their identity on the handset, which would release the credential stored in secure element, to a requesting authority. This could lead to a future where you would not need to have physical passport with you for cross country travels.
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In order to successfully turn iPhone into a device used to authenticate a person, Apple will have to convince a number of authorities around the world. The primary question will be safeguarding privacy and secure nature of the whole transmission.