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Apple Patent Reveals Possible Future use of Biometrics for the Apple TV Remote that Works with HomeKit & more



As Apple prepares to introduce a TV service to compete with Amazon's Prime, Netflix and others, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals that they may bring biometric authentication to the Apple TV remote to eliminate the hassle of entering passcodes and be able to recognize who is attempting to use the services on Apple TV. Parents may have full access whereas children and teens in the household may have restrictions placed on what content they can access and more importantly, purchase. This future remote with biometrics may also work with many home devices in the future and may be tightly tied into HomeKit so that the remote could access and control other household devices, such as a security system, appliances, lights and more while watching TV. The biometrics could be fingerprint based or use other methodologies including iris and facial recognition.


Apple notes that electronic device #120 illustrated in FIG. 1 is illustrated as a television as an example only. In various implementations the electronic device may be any electronic device that is capable of receiving instructions from a remote control device. Such electronic device may include one or more televisions, set top boxes, media centers, desktop computing devices, media controllers, media players, laptop computing devices, wearable devices, tablet computing devices, mobile computing devices, cellular telephones, smart phones, kitchen appliances, automobiles, voice over internet protocol telephones, displays, microphones, speakers, video game console, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and/or air conditioning) systems, lighting systems, and/or any other electronic device(s).



Apple notes that the remote control device #110 is illustrated as a dedicated remote control with a single control element #140 as an example only. In various implementations and embodiments, the remote control device may be any remote control device that is capable of transmitting instructions to the electronic device #120.


Such a remote control device may include one or more portable electronic devices, such as dedicated remote control device, a portable electronic device, a smart phone device, a tablet device, a stylus device, a wearable device, a health monitor, or any other suitable electronic device.


The remote control device may include at least one sensor that is configured to detect at least one biometric characteristic from a candidate user #130. As illustrated, the sensor may be a fingerprint sensor (such as a capacitive sensor, an ultrasonic sensor, and/or other touch sensor) that is operable to detect at least one fingerprint.


However, a fingerprint sensor is merely shown as an example. The sensor may include any number of biometric sensors capable to detect biometrical characteristics from the candidate user. For example, in certain embodiments, the sensor may be a retina or iris sensor, an electrocardiography sensor, a vein imaging sensor, voice sensor, or any other sensor capable to objectively measure a unique biometric characteristic of the candidate user.


In other implementations, the sensor may be any kind of sensor (such as one or more cameras, inertial sensors, photoplethysmographic sensors, and so on) that is operable to detect at least one unique biometric characteristic of the candidate user. Such biometric characteristics may include, but are not limited to, retinal or facial images, palm prints, gesture patterns, signatures, and/or any other kind of unique biometric characteristics of the candidate user. In still further embodiments, the remote control device may include more than one element sensor element. For example, the remote control device may include a number of buttons or sensors, each capable to cause an instruction to be sent to the electronic device. Such instructions may include state information and/or authentication information.


In these and related examples, a remote may send both state data and authentication data to an electronic device. For example, when a parent operates a television with a remote control having a biometric sensor, the remote control may send both the state data and the authorization data to the television upon every button press that the parent makes.


In one embodiment, every feature of the remote control may cause to be sent and instruction and an authorization. For example, if a power button on the remote is pressed, and instruction to turn a television on may be accompanied by an authorization data that identifies the user making the request of the television. In many cases, powering on the television may not be a limited access feature. Thus, the television may ignore the authentication data sent after the instruction. However, when a limited access feature is attempted to be accessed, the television may pass the authorization data to an access controller to determine whether the authorization data permits access to the requested feature.


On the other hand, a child may be user with only limited access. If a child grasps the remote and aligns a finger with a fingerprint sensor of the remote, the child may not be permitted to access certain limited-access features of the television (or other electronic device) by operating the remote. If the child attempted to access the limited access features of the television, the television may prompt the child to enter the proper access code.



Apple also notes that in other related examples, an electronic device may include limited access features. For example, a television may require a passcode of a user in order to view particular channels or, in other cases, to turn on the television after or before a certain time of day.


In a different example, a thermostat may require a physical key in order to change temperatures or settings. In still further examples, a home security system may require an access code in order to arm or disarm a system. Other electronic devices may have other limited access features.


Apple's patent application was filed back in Q2 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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