• Nandan V

FaceID and the Apple Watch: What if?

Source: Apple

The Apple Watch was first launched in April of 2015, four years later it now holds the crown of the best smartwatch. Apple recently launched its 6th edition, Series 5 which is a minor improvement over Series 4 but brings a key new feature that ensures its place as the best. The Verge has a well-written article exploring what's new in Series 5.

Apple last year, with the launch of Series 4 brought in the ability to record an electrocardiogram (ECG is the recording of the electrical activity of your heart) whenever you please, a feat unmatched by anyone at the time of writing of this article. Series 4 was smart enough to alert you if you had an arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation which if undetected can cause death due to cardiac arrest. This wasn't the only life-saving feature last, fall detection was a really important one for the elderly and has since then saved countless lives.

However, this is not a review of the Apple Watch but about how it can be made a whole lot better.

The one thing I find missing in the Apple Watch is security, anyone could use it as long as it's on my wrist or if they crack the four-digit code, which isn't hard today. Apple has made use of the crown along with electrodes under the watch to measure ECG signals. The crown, which already is a capacitive sensor could also be used as a TouchID module. Apple could've made it the most secure wearable device! However, Apple never goes backward and therefore we are probably not going to see TouchID again unless it's under-glass (the iPhone SE 2 will have it, so there is hope. The upcoming MacBook Pro might ditch it for FaceID).

Would it come to the Apple Watch? I doubt it as Apple will not be re-engineering the already dated technology to make it compatible with the Apple Watch, there is just no room for it right now.

FaceID is Apple's take at facial recognition to unlock your iPhone. FaceID technology utilizes an array of sensors and detectors to create a three-dimensional map of your face. The array consists of a dot projector, a flood illuminator and an infrared camera. The dot projector projects over 30,000 infrared dots on your face which are then captured using the infrared camera. The three-dimensional map generated is used to create a mathematical model of your face and then fed to neural networks so that your iPhone will unlock even if there are physical changes to your face like a change in your hairstyle, it won't embarrass you on a date no matter how hideous you look (Comicons excluded).

FaceID module is more complicated than TouchID, but if leaks are something to go by, the 2020 iPhone is going to have a completely redesigned FaceID module and therefore a notch-less iPhone.

2020 iPhone render courtesy of MacRumors

The latest iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro have improved greatly upon the technology, that too with a reduction in the size of the notch! FaceID on these newer devices are faster and work at wider angles. Couple this with the speed improvements that came with iOS 13 and it's just mind-blowing what Apple does with its software as even the older FaceID modules are perceivably faster.

The best thing about FaceID is that it's completely hands-free and therefor perfectly fitting for a smartwatch. With the addition of the always-on display, it's so much easier to tell the time just like in a normal watch. To unlock it, you just have to look at it and it will then switch from its 1Hz refresh rate to the beautiful 60Hz and show you your watch face in its full glory. If it doesn't authenticate, it will stick to the dull always-on mode. Simple, secure and efficient.

Apple could tone it down a bit for the Apple Watch as you will look straight at it if you want to know anything but time. Much like what "Motion Sense" does for Pixel 4, Apple could prime the sensors earlier by detecting the raising action of your wrist.

The need for such sophisticated security measures will be unjustifiable for some, but there is a reason why a simple passcode is no longer the only choice in your smartphone. Smartwatches are becoming exceedingly powerful and capable. They probably won't replace the smartphone anytime soon. It is my opinion that we have to secure it just like we do with any smartphone.

All this being said, I would rather have sleep tracking first. :p


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