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New in Tech: Facial Recognition, Digital Keys, and More with Apple

Jalesa Campbell
Updated Jan 28, 2021
3 min read
Apple is making leaps and bounds with new technological advancements. See what hot, new features are on the horizon and those that have already “broken dawn.”

By now, many of us are always expecting (although we don’t always know the dates) for the next big Apple advancement to drop.

Pun intended.

But with all seriousness, Apple has definitely made some futuristic moves with products like the iPhone 11, Apple TV, Apple Watch Series 5, and others. The company is tackling everything from heart monitoring to voice control, and today we’re going to take a look at four Apple features and how they’re changing the way we engage with information and the world.

Tap to Unlock & Crank: Apple Digital Keys

I’ll admit, digital car keys haven’t really been on my radar. One of the biggest advancements I’ve witnessed personally with a vehicle was automatic alert messaging, and that’s probably slow compared to others.

But now, Apple has unveiled a step towards advancements in the auto industry with digital keys. For select makes and models, Apple will allow drivers to create digital keys that will be stored in Apple Wallet. So far, Apple has announced its intention to work with BMW, having several models designed to work with this new feature.

How do Apple digital keys work?

You can set up a key in Apple Wallet, using an NFC reader, this will allow you to unlock a door and crank up the car. You’ll also be able to share digital keys with family members, as well as delete and revoke keys. Yep, you can grant and take away rights.

But one of the biggest concerns I had was what happens if you lose your iPhone or Apple Watch? The company has steps you can take in the event you believe either of these devices have been lost. 

For the iPhone, you can use the Find My app to help locate it by map or sound. If you don’t have the Find My app on your iPhone, you can change your Apple ID password to help prevent someone from accessing your data. And if those options don’t work, you can mark your phone as lost, which will automatically lock your phone by code and prevent others from accessing your data. For an Apple Watch, you can log in to iCloud.com and try to locate your watch by map or place it in Lost Mode.

From Touch Recognition to Facial Recognition

Many of us are probably already aware of the ability to unlock phones by touch, hence using an Apple Touch ID. But the company has also introduced facial recognition, which allows your device to scan your face, create mapping, and store those scans. With Apple Face ID, even if you wear makeup or make slight changes to your appearance, Apple will most likely be able to detect it. However, if you drastically alter your appearance, you may be prompted to enter your passcode.

Just to list several things you can do with Apple Face ID, you can:

  • Unlock your iPhone
  • Make transactions
  • Create an Animoji (that looks like you)

New Smart Home Features with Apple HomeKit

Last but not least, if you’re not familiar with Apple HomeKit, this is the home automation system that allows you to set up custom actions. 

There are several new features coming to Apple HomeKit to include:

  • Adaptive lighting
  • Facial recognition
  • Custom activity zones

These new features will be part of iOS 14. With adaptive lighting, if you have smart lights with this capability, you can have them set so that the temperature of the light adjusts according to the time of day. For instance, in the mornings, your lights cast a warmer glow as you start your day.

Camera facial recognition isn’t exactly new, with Nest cameras providing this capability. But Apple is now making this feature available, allowing you to tag people who have been identified by compatible cameras. Once they’ve been tagged, they’ll be remembered, allowing you to be notified, for instance, of who’s your door.

Like facial recognition, custom activity zones aren’t particularly new, especially with a number of security cameras, but this feature will allow you to set the areas that matter most for receiving notifications. One of the benefits of custom activity zones is that you can prevent unnecessary  notifications, such as of a branch moving in the wind.

Potential Accessibility Advancements with Gesture Recognition

What if you could perform certain actions with your Apple device by gesture? 

Recently, the company has filed a patent for vein scanning technology entitled “Vein scanning device for automatic gesture and finger recognition” (AppleInsider). Now, while Apple files many patents and may not use all of them towards the development of new devices or technology, it’s clear that the company’s intention is to read vein positions to determine gestures that initiate actions.

Put simply, you could potentially “raise your pointer finger to open an exercise app…or perhaps ball up your hand into a fist to stop audio” (PopularMechanics.com). Gesture recognition could potentially provide more accessibility for those who are hard-of-hearing by providing them with another way to issue commands to an Apple device. While the specific product has not been named for this feature, it’s definitely something that I think is worth looking out for.

Final Thoughts

If you’re already an Apple user, then these features are capable of giving you new ways to connect with the world and interact with information. While even these latest advancements definitely have their pros, we’re well aware of potential drawbacks, and that’s important for consumers to keep in mind. Here’s to waiting and seeing what the next “Apple drop” will be!

Safety and Security Reporter

Jalesa Campbell

Jalesa is one of Safety.com's staff experts on home security, natural disasters, public safety, and family safety. She's been featured on Today.com and elsewhere.

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