Let’s talk about cars for a second.

If you’re driving a car manufactured in the past five years, it’s likely it has anti-lock brakes. A standard feature at this point in time, but who came up with it first?

Mercedes-Benz first introduced it on the S-Class line back in 1978. It was a revolutionary technology and the first hint of how digital electronics would change the course of the automotive industry.

The S-Class pioneered many other safety innovations: crash crumple zones, air bags and traction control are a few of the most notable. This line has also become synonymous with comfort and luxury: it was the first Mercedes to be available with an automatic transmission. There’s even an armored version with a customized crocodile, gold and birch interior!

It’s clear this car is in a class by itself: “Sonderklasse”

“S-Class” is an anglicisation of “”S-Klasse,” a German abbreviation of “Sonderklasse,” which means “special class” (in the sense of “a class of its own”). In automotive terms thus refers to “a specially outfitted car”.

The current S600 model sports a 5.5L twin turbo V12 motor with a 7-speed automatic transmission. Enough power to propel a 4,950 lb vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. And that’s before AMG gets their hands on it. Impressive automotive technology, to be sure.

More importantly, these special cars have been recognized as a driving force behind the company’s success.

And now…

Another premium technology brand has an S-Class product: iPhone 5s.

“Craftsmanship”, “Power”, “Safety & Security”, “Ahead of its time”. Are we talking about a car or a phone?

Look at the words that dominate the iPhone 5s features page: Forward thinking. That’s a strategy that’s worked superbly at Mercedes-Benz for almost 60 years. I suspect Apple will get a pretty good run out of it, too.


It looks like my hunch about the iPhone invite was right: new phones are likely to have “silver rings” that are fingerprint sensors embedded into the home button.

So what does this mean? Most people assume that it’s just going to be easier to access your home screen (without entering a passcode.) But I think it goes much deeper than that.

iCloud services are a huge part of Apple’s next decade. Everything the company is doing these days has some kind of connection to data that is stored remotely. They’re investing heavily in new data centers.

And anytime you want to access this data, you’re logging into iCloud. Wouldn’t it be great if you could skip the part where you have to type in your Apple ID?

It’s clear to me that your unique fingerprint will be tied to your unique Apple ID. Once this connection between your physical and online presences is established, some very interesting things become possible. Let’s take a look at a few things I think might happen:

Protecting access to apps

From the beginning, I’ve wanted a way to protect my personal information when sharing a device with friends and family. But any secure solution to that problem would be a pain in the butt. Typing a password before launching an app? No thanks!

But imagine if opening your favorite Twitter app only required a fingerprint scan before proceeding. Everyone’s favorite Twitter prank would thankfully die. And more importantly, we’d all feel a lot better about using things like online banking apps.

Corporate security

Most corporate networks are protected by VPN. The profiles that enable this network configuration often specify that a user must use a passcode lock. And it’s rarely a simple passcode. And it kicks in immediately.

Imagine needing to type in a eight character password with letters and numerals just to check the current weather. That’s a reality for millions of people who use their device for both personal and business tasks.

A fingerprint scanner that avoids this complex password will sell a lot of devices.

Multiple accounts

There are many scenarios where you want to let someone do whatever they want with your personal device: a partner providing directions while you drive, a kid playing games in a waiting room, your parents looking at vacation photos. All these people have something different than you: a fingerprint.

Entering a login and password has always seemed out of place in the simplified world of iOS. But detecting which account to use when tapping on the home button actually makes it easier for members of your family to use your personal device: they don’t even have to slide to unlock.

And once everyone has their own personal space on the device, no one can mess with it. This is important in many contexts: even something simple like a game has sensitive information as soon as a sibling comes along and screws up high scores or play position.

Borrowing devices

Most of us backup our data to iCloud. That data is restored to a device when it’s first put into service or if something goes wrong.

Now imagine if you had the ability to restore your data onto any device with the touch of your finger. Borrow an iPad and make it yours instantly. Businesses that strive to make a customer feel at home, like hotels and airlines, would love this capability.

Personal identification

If you think Apple is going to give developers access to this biometric information, think again. Google would love this data, so you know it’s not going to happen.

Slowly but surely

Don’t expect all these things to appear on September 10th. Apple will start out simply and continue to improve the software that uses this new sensor. That’s how they roll.

Acknowledgments: The genesis of these ideas came from a conversation with my colleague Sean Heber. He’s the one that first made the connection between iCloud and your finger. Thanks also go to Ryan Jones for the links about the sensor.