Apple May Take Fingerprint Security Mainstream

Tickers in this article: AAPL GOOG

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple's new Touch ID technology may be the answer for consumers everywhere who have a tough time remembering passwords -- or whose fat fingers find tiny virtual keyboards annoying. For the security industry, this could be what finally boosts biometric technology to a mainstream audience.

"To me, I see this as an example of another opportunity for them to take a technology from high-end applications and bring it to consumers," said Philip Lieberman, president of Lieberman Software, which develops security software for businesses and governments. "It's the first time I've ever seen this level of technology in a consumer product."

Apple's knack for integrating new -- and expensive -- technologies into its products and creating mass appeal appears to be on the verge again. The sliver-thin MacBook Air's, high-resolution Retina displays and, of course, iPads, for example, are now part of our vernacular. And while the company wasn't always the first, Apple used its influence and buying power to expand the audience greatly.

Apple also has a reputation to protect, Lieberman added.

"Apple has gotten beat up because people have chosen poor passwords for their Apple mail service," he said. "By having a biometric device as opposed to a password chosen by the user, it's the better way to go, especially for consumers. You don't choose a fingerprint."

Biometric fingerprint readers expanded beyond science fiction and began showing up in retail stores more than 10 years ago. Some PC makers built fingerprint readers into laptops. Other companies made consumer gadgets that were more gimmicky than reliable. The technology didn't always work.

Low-resolution scanners and cheap sensors resulted in limited mass appeal. Consumers weren't willing to pay for the higher quality hardware. Today, fingerprint scanners are relegated to a handful of business laptops or large companies willing to invest in high-end equipment.

Apple's Touch ID, one of the most buzzed-about features in the new iPhone 5S, spares little expense and offers high-quality hardware with minimal fuss. After the initial set up, iPhone owners need only to touch the home button to unlock the phone or make a purchase on iTunes or the App Store.