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Apple patent details digital handshakes using advanced cameras and invisible inks

Apple has been no stranger to patenting innovative methods and implementations of ID verification and recognition technologies, most recently highlighting a system for advanced 3D object recognition. Perhaps the most interesting patent to emerge is one for digital handshakes using advanced camera systems and invisible ink published by the US Patent & Trademark Office earlier today (via PatentlyApple). The patent essentially details a system in which advanced, next-generation cameras could read invisible inks and optical coatings, which contain unique identifiers, integrated into another device or object. In its most basic embodiment, this would allow one device (or person) to identify and establish a connection with another quickly and securely. PatentlyApple explains:

The devices could share the keys using any suitable approach, including for example providing the keys in a manner that an image captured by each device could include the other device’s key. For example, devices could be placed opposite each other (e.g., face-to-face, face-to-back, or back-to-back) such that a camera of the device includes the other device in its field of view… In one implementation, one or more cameras of the first device could capture images of the device environment. The first device could process the captured images to detect a second device in the field of view, and to identify one or more cameras of the second device.

When it comes to potential applications, Apple outlines sharing data– videos, photos, contacts, etc.– as well as determining network information, bandwidth, and security levels. The patent specifically mentions social networking aspects. For example, Twitter sharing could be integrated, while multiplayer gaming could benefit from connecting multiple devices available for a specific game and sharing data like in-game stats. However, the patent also details a number of other notable potential applications as well including logging into a secondary device and using the tech as identification at retailers…


Other implementations could include a “secure communications path” for any suitable network. For instance, the digital handshake could be required to join a network or share documents through a secure connection. It could also be used as form of password or verification, allowing one user to confirm another user’s level of access to a particular network, folder, or file. Likewise, a user could, for example, purchase prescription medicine from a pharmacy using the digital handshake as identification. One embodiment is easy to imagine… logging into another device (like a MacBook or iMac) using a secondary device, like an iPhone or iPad.

As for where the digital key might be hidden, Apple explains several possible implementations including directly into glass bezel of a device like iPad (invisible to the user’s eye), built-into the Apple logo on the back of a device like iPhone, or concealed in speciality coatings elsewhere on the hardware.

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Avatar for Jordan Kahn Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.