Yole projects biometric sensor technology shift

Over the past five years the consumer biometric sensor market has evolved from basic fingerprint to 3D sensing, according to a recent report published by Yole Développement, a research firm.

The report notes that the “first wave” of biometric technology came in 2013, when Apple introduced TouchID capacitive technology for the iPhone 5S and popularized fingerprint authentication in the consumer mass market. The result was that introduction of fingerprint biometrics to Android devices created an uptick in the marketplace, increasing revenue within the global fingerprint sensing market up to US$3.5 billion by the end of 2017.

With the introduction of the iPhone X, Yole postulates that Apple introduced a “second wave” in biometry in 2016, by setting a new standard for technological advancement for 3-D sensing in consumer devices. Apple’s new standards conceives of a complex assembly of camera modules and VCSEL light sources using structured light principles, along with an innovative NIR global shutter image sensor from STMicroelectronics to perform secure 3-D facial recognition. This second wave, led by biometry with 3-D sensing, is ongoing. Yole estimates the new biometry standards will increase market value up to US$17 billion by 2022.

Yole notes that because most Android firms lacked Apple’s in-house R&D capabilities, they have opted against 3-D sensing and instead have chosen to integrate lower-cost fingerprint technology that achieves phone unlock and online payment functions similar to Apple’s, albeit with a somewhat compromised user experience, along with 2-D facial recognition integrated within their respective front camera module.

The research firm now has observed that Chinese players are closing in fast behind Apple, due in part to a fruitful partnership across supply chains. Consequently, Huawei and Xiaomi have both engineered a 3-D sensing solutions comparable to those of Apple’s, that incorporate an embedded structured-light module for 3-D sensing and biometric features.

“After being developed for homeland security and used in industrial applications, the new target of biometrics has been the consumer market for several years now,” said Guillaume Girardin, Director of Photonics in the Sensing & Display division at Yole. “At Yole we think that 60% of biometric module in volume will be coming from face recognition module while fingerprint, about 40% will see a decrease over time of its value due to competition, and alternative implementation, leading to cost reduction.”

The firm believes that biometric technology adoption in the consumer space will ultimately shift from fingerprint to facial recognition. More details will be available in the firm’s upcoming report, Consumer Biometrics: Market and Technologies Trends 2018.

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