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Apple wins another patent for ‘Palm ID’

7 min read
  • Apple has been granted a patent for a new technology which many in the industry are calling ‘Palm ID’.
  • We have seen similar patents in the past from Apple, most recently back in 2019 with a similar patent describing a palm-based biometric system.
  • The technology may be under the screen, or in the devices notch/front camera system.
  • It could be used on a range of devices, from iPhones to Apple Watches, Macs and iPads.

Yesterday, Apple was granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a new technology which many in the industry are calling ‘Palm ID’. The technology appears to be an under-screen, hands-free biometric system using your palm. It also describes another version of the technology that could be implemented inside the notch/front camera system. From the images shown on the patent, it appears to show someone unlocking a device by simply holding their hand over the display. Interesting stuff. From Patently Apple:

Technically, Apple's granted patent cover electronic devices that may also include a palm biometric image sensor layer beneath the display layer and configured to sense an image of a user's palm positioned above the display layer based upon light reflected from the user's palm passing through the light transmissive portions of the display layer.

The patent includes multiple use-cases for the technology, from iPhones to Apple Watches, Macs and iPads. The authentication method would be contactless, and would likely allow for locking and unlocking your device, Apple Pay, and more. Furthermore, the patent states that the technology works by “[performing] biometric authentication based upon comparing palm vein data to stored palm vein data,” somewhat similar to what we see in today's Touch ID and Face ID.

From Biometric Update:

The patent for an ‘Electronic device including palm biometric sensor layer and related methods’ shows an imaging sensor and potentially Apple’s infrared imaging system being used to perform authentication to the device by sensing “surface distortion.” The image sensing layer could include a substrate, possibly with a photodiode layer, and a layer for narrowing the field of view above that. The system could also use a flood light source operable at between 450 nm and 560 nm, instead of infrared light.

The document also refers to alternative implementations, such as a biometric key in a keyboard or joystick on a gaming device. Similar patents have been published in the past from Apple, most recently back in 2019 with a similar patent describing a palm-based biometric system. Apple's 2019 patent was very similar.

From Apple Insider in 2019:

Apple has recently filed for a patent detailing aspects of its innovation in the field. Instead of using a hand-shape for a user to authenticate with, long seen in movies and television, Apple is proposing something similar to Touch ID on the iPhone or iPad, where different aspects of the palm's vein geometries are mapped and orientation is determined in real-time.

Patent 20190278973, filed in January, discusses Apple's approach. Similar to its patent on a screen-embedded biometric detectors, Apple is suggesting that a screen have multiple layers with the substrate, a photodiode layer, and a field of view layer above the photodiode.

Infrared light is emitted, and the controller determines the palm vein mapping from the photodiode layer. Palm crease data is simultaneously scanned with light in the visible spectrum, and is used above and beyond the vein mapping to enhance accuracy.

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