The fingerprint scanner that we have got so habituated to will soon cease to exist in its current form. The biometric authentication feature will now be invisible, albeit continuing to do its job well. In a move that will revolutionise the mobile phone industry, smartphone manufacturers are working towards integrating the fingerprint scanner right under the display of the phone.
Companies have been experimenting with the placement of the scanner, ever since smartphones started packing in advanced technology and taking on sleeker forms - think edge-to-edge display or bezel-less display that leave little room for this now indispensible feature. From being a fixture at the rear of the smartphone, like in the Samsung Galaxy S8, to being moved to the side with the power button, like what Sony did although with little success, the fingerprint scanner has literally gone places. Apple famously decided to get rid of it altogether by introducing the FaceID technology in the iPhone X.
When Synaptics Inc., a US-based company developing human interface solutions, came up with the technology wherein sensors for fingerprint biometrics are embedded under the display, it was a eureka moment for phone companies. Referred to as Clear ID optical in-display fingerprint sensor, it has been designed for smartphones with edge-to-edge displays and can be mounted only under an OLED panel. Once the finger touches the display, the OLED display illuminates the fingerprint, the optical sensor scans it and sends it to the processor to match it against the registered encrypted template. This technology delivers one-touch high-resolution scanning through the cover glass and works even if your fingers are wet, dry or cold. Users can securely unlock the device from any angle, whether it's on a desk or mounted on a holder in the car.
While the regular fingerprint biometric system is not entirely foolproof, Synaptics Clear ID claims to offer superior security. David Hurd, Corporate Marketing, Synaptics, explains, "Clear ID uses Synaptics' hardware (CMOS sensor and controller IC) and software algorithms. Synaptics also offers its SentryPoint security suite that protects data end to end, from the fingerprint sensor to the host, and leverages the latest industry standards. Quantum Matcher technology is used for fingerprint template matching and authentication. Also, Synaptics PurePrint anti-spoof technology helps distinguish between fake or spoofed fingerprints and the real thing; the drivers are regularly updated to combat new spoofing techniques and materials."
Having been in the works for over four years, the sensors are now going into mass production. Synaptics is working with top five OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) who will adopt this technology for their flagship smartphones. Chinese smartphone brand Vivo's X20 Plus UD is the first ever smartphone to ship with this technology. Doogee V is another smartphone brand that has incorporated the fingerprint sensor underneath its 6.2-inch display.
OnePlus, known to pack in the latest technology in its flagship smartphones, is rumoured to have adopted this feature in the OnePlus 6 that is slated to launch this year. Samsung has, recently, applied for a patent for its new phone display that will eliminate the space required by various sensors, paving the way for the in-display fingerprint sensor. Although unconfirmed, LG, Oppo, Xiaomi and Huawei are also expected to include this technology in their flagship smartphones this year.
There is something in the works for smartphones with LCD screens, too. Japan Display Inc., an LCD technology company, has come up with a transparent fingerprint scanner that is built right into the glass of the display. This has been achieved by optimising the Pixel Eyes technology that has touch detection built into the glass substrate to detect changes in capacitance that occur when an LCD screen is touched by a finger. The technology will have the capability to detect recesses and ridges of a fingerprint, and can deftly replace the silicon-based fingerprint sensors in use today.