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Synaptics announces mass production of in-display fingerprint sensors for smartphones


Synaptics is pitting its fingerprint biometrics against Apple’s FaceID, as the company announced it has reached mass production of its Clear ID FS9500 in-display fingerprints sensors with a Tier 1 OEM.

Screens have grown relative to device sizes, typically covering 64 percent of the front surface in 2011, compared to 84 percent for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and 83 percent for the iPhone 10 in 2017. Synaptics predicts that full-surface OLED “infinity displays” will soon dominate the top end of the mobile device market, but also that they “will go mainstream very quickly,” Synaptics Vice President of Marketing Godfrey Cheng told Biometric Update in an exclusive interview. That leads to a challenge: where does the biometric system go?

“Biometrics are now expected for all smartphones,” Cheng says. “You cannot go back to the old days of PINs and passwords, people expect some sort of biometric authentication.”

At the same time, how to integrate a biometric system in a smartphone with an infinity display without compromising usability has been unclear, he says.

“There’s been a lot of concern with how biometrics would be done for infinity display phones.”

Synaptic’s Clear ID FS9500 family of sensors provide highly secure fingerprint authentication technology with the convenience of a button, but on a sensor under the infinity display. The optical sensor is laminated on the bottom of the display, and supports a stack above it up to roughly 1.5 mm. The sensor area is lit up by the OLED panel when needed, and light reflected by the user’s finger is then scanned through the display pixels by the 6×6 mm CMOS sensor to create a fingerprint image.

“For biometrics on infinity display phones you only have three options,” Cheng says. “You have the rear of the phone, and I would argue that that’s something you want to preclude for usability reasons – it’s just awkward to use. Then you have facial recognition, which Apple came out with in the iPhone 10. Now we’re bringing out in-display. We believe that our solution is better for usability, speed, and security.”

Synaptics internal research shows significant user experience advantages for under-display fingerprint biometrics over facial recognition for a smartphone, including what Cheng says are conservative calculations of 1.4 seconds per average authenticate with facial recognition, compared to 0.7 seconds with the under-display fingerprint sensor. Additionally, the recovery time after a failed authentication is significantly longer for facial verification systems. At the same time, the user experience for media consumption is superior without a button or an indent in the display.

The Clear ID sensors support the company’s SentryPoint technology, which features adaptive template matching and authentication it calls Quantum Matcher, and the SecureLink encryption system. It is also boosted by PurePrint technology, which uses machine learning to identify and block 99 percent or more of spoof attempts, Cheng says. As new spoof materials are identified, the matcher can be trained to recognize them, and that training pushed out to user’s phones in an update.

Manufacturers may choose not to implement the anti-spoof measures, as many currently prefer to rely on physical security and mechanisms such as TrustZone, Cheng explains. As consumers become more aware of the risks of biometric spoofing attacks, mobile device manufacturers may follow PC OEMs in implementing anti-spoof technology, however.

“The stage we’re currently at with anti-spoofing is education,” Cheng notes.

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