Fast forward a couple years, and let’s say 200 million people are using Touch ID. What then?
I predict that Apple will roll out a program that can be envisioned as a cross between social network sign-in programs and password utilities like LastPass. Whether you’re using iPhone, iPad or Mac, you’ll be able to log into participating sites by touching your phone (the phone will relay the authentication via Bluetooth to other devices).
I also believe Apple plans to use your Apple ID credit card and Touch ID authentication to enable payments on other sites. Say you’re on the J. Peterman catalog web site and want to buy a Paris Tough Guy Sweater. Instead of “registering,” filling out your credit card details, billing address and other annoying details, you’ll simply authenticate via Touch ID. The transaction will go through. Your iTunes credit card will be billed. And Apple will get a cut of the transaction.
I believe Apple will even roll this model into brick-and-mortar stores. Instead of NFC, Apple will more likely use Bluetooth Low Energy(BLE), the wireless technology also known as Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth 4.0.
Apple hinted at the previous iOS 7 announcement at their development conference a program called iBeacons, which are Bluetooth stations that stores can place all over to track and communicate with iPhone-carrying customers as they wander through the isles.
While iBeacons may zap contextual information to customers, they may also facilitate transactions. Instead of lining up for the cash register, for example, a customer might make the transaction like it was an online transaction, using Touch ID on the phone to pay, then just walk out of the store with the items.
The store alarms won’t go off because the iBeacons system will recognized the Touch ID-authenticated customer who has purchased the RFID-tagged items they’re carrying.
Apple’s Touch ID system won’t be super secure. It will, however, be far more secure and far more convenient than today’s passwords and credit cards.
I believe Touch ID and the fingerprint systems that other handset and mobile OS makers come up with, followed by all kinds of online and offline programs and initiatives that exploit ubiquitous fingerprint ID in mobile devices, will transform how authentication, ID and transactions are handled.
Apple is in a unique position to bring this change about, and it looks like they’re off to a very strong start.
By starting small -- one of its handset lines and two simple applications (passcode and iTunes password), Apple is presenting something scary and ugly as something friendly and easy.
That combination will get millions of people to use it, and in doing so drive a mainstream change in general human behavior.
In other words, Apple is changing the world again, and in a way that will provide massive financial benefits to the company and small improvements in the convenience of everyday transactions to millions of people.
And that’s way more significant than a pink plastic iPhone.