Apple has been granted a patent for vein image detection that can be used in the iPhone.
According to Apple Insider, the patent — first filed in 2015 — is called “Vein imaging using detection of pulsed radiation,” which uses infrared light to capture images of the veins beneath someone’s skin.
The technology, which could be used alongside Face ID to unlock iPhones, consists of an optical transmitter that emits multiple pulses of infrared light towards an area of the user's body, such as a hand or a face, in order to capture data that can then be processed to generate an image of the blood vessels within the defined area.
“A complex pattern of blood vessels runs close beneath the skin of the face, and detection of this pattern under infrared illumination could be used, for example, to enhance the reliability of facial authentication,” the patent reads.
In the patent, Apple notes existing vein-based authentication systems for hands are considered to be very accurate “due to the complexity of the vein patterns in the hand.” Since vein patterns are internal to the body, it would be difficult for someone to produce a usable counterfeit.
The new technology could also help solve the iPhone X’s problem with Face ID being fooled by identical twins. Vein structure is unique, even among twins, and would theoretically solve the problem.
Other companies are also looking into similar technology. In 2013, Google filed a patent for a Google Glass-like devices capable of “authenticating the user based on each of the iris images, the retina images, and the eye vein images both individually and in combination.”