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NEXT Biometrics to focus on “non-smartphone markets” in 2016


Tore Etholm-Idsoe, CEO of NEXT Biometrics, a leader in high-quality low-cost fingerprint sensors, said the firm is set for significant progress in 2016 and recapped 2015 highlights in his annual Christmas letter to shareholders.

He said in his year-end statement that NEXT had expanded its product offering throughout 2015. In the first half of the year, six different NEXT fingerprint sensor modules were released, to cover all major customer needs. In the third quarter these were further enhanced by a new generation of thinner and design-focused modules.

Enabled by its patented active thermal principle, NEXT offers high-quality area fingerprint sensors at a fraction of the prices of comparable competitors. The firm has also developed a wide range of product formats for smartphones, tablets, personal computers, doors, time registration systems, payment terminals, flash drives, USB tokens and key fobs. The company however emphasizes a clear differentiation between sensor size and commercial applications.

In its year-end statement, NEXT said that when studying the fingerprint sensor market, it is key to understand the difference between “quality critical” and “non-critical” market segments. In smartphones, sensor system quality is not critical as it is offered as a convenience feature only. A user not able or willing to use the system is immediately offered simple pin-code or password based access. Hence, the system does not offer any added security. Furthermore, in present smartphones, it is of no consequence whether 20, 50 or 80 percent of the users are actually using the sensor, said NEXT.

The company said that in all other devices and applications where security is important or a pin-code cannot be entered or the sensor is a key-focused feature, fingerprint sensors will need to work conveniently and securely for close to 100 percent of the targeted end users. In such systems, sensor size cannot be compromised. This is documented both by the fact that suppliers of quality critical traditional sensor systems, including doors and point-of-sales registers, always offer larger and more expensive sensors.

The company claims proof of this fact in the “Madrid Report,” a large scale third party test initiated by NEXT. In the study, more than 180,000 fingerprints were collected and same size sensors from three suppliers were blind tested. NEXT claims the study proved that sensor system performance deteriorates fast when sensor size is reduced. It also documented that NEXT sensors perform in line with competitors’ same size sensors that are three-to-five times more expensive.

Despite outlining differences in sensor size and user application, the firm aims to take a leading position in “non-smartphone markets,” which include smartcards and notebooks in 2016. NEXT recently entered an arrangement with Dell to supply sensors for the computer manufacturers’ notebook computers.

Etholm-Idsoe noted at year end, NEXT had 55 employees, half at the Seattle office. Going forward, the company will continue to expand, with new hiring in R&D, sales and operations. A significant part of the new hiring will be related to the company strategic interest in smartcards.

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