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Apple eyes next-generation biometric scanners for under-display Touch ID

New patent filing for under-display photodetectors potentially envisioned for wearables, devices

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A new patent application by Apple is signaling the company’s emphasis on biometric photodetector technology for under-display touch identification to be potentially deployed on its devices, reports Patently Apple. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has published a patent filing for devices that may consist of one or more photodetectors.

The filing is the latest in a series of smartphone biometrics-related patents by the company.

The sensors described in the latest application can include biometric sensors, depth sensors, and cameras. Further specifications describe this technology as embedded under the display area, hinting at its potential future integration into iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad. Beyond these uses, the sensors could also be deployed to IoT devices like appliances, thermostats, and refrigerators.

Apple’s listed uses of the photodetectors include security, health monitoring, and entertainment. Arrays of these photodetectors may be deployed to scan fingerprint, palm print, 3D face, or eye biometrics. This, along with their possible under-display placement, suggests that the photodetectors could be used for biometric user identification and authentication.

The filing refers to biometric information being extracted through electromagnetic radiation, as a capacitive system. In this process, photodetectors emit electromagnetic radiation against an object such as a finger, face, or stylus. Once reflected by the object, this radiation returns a backscatter which then passes back through the display to register the object’s information. The document also refers to the possibility of using optical, ultrasonic, thermal or other sensing technologies within the system.

In addition to this, the photodetectors are also capable of obtaining ophthalmic scans, ECG, and pulse for health monitoring. Other uses of the scanners include palm scanning for social matching and social networking.

Apple expands health monitoring with new patent filings

Three other new patent filings show Apple’s research and development of technology for monitoring health metrics including sleep analysis, glucose monitoring, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) applications, writes All About Circuits. Specifically, the three patent applications describe Infrared transceivers for object recognition, performance enhancements for terahertz spectroscopy used in glucose monitoring, and biometric sleep sensors.

The infrared transceivers, which may be used in telephones or head-mounted devices, include beam-steering technology and will likely be used for augmented object recognition via visible and infrared light. According to the filing, the device can sense objects in a variety of light conditions including visible light, UV, and infrared spectrum ranges. The filing suggests that this technology could be deployed to examine food items to sense ripeness, calorie content, and more. According to the report, it could also be applied to assist with object recognition for users with impaired vision.

Apple’s terahertz radiation filing describes an electromagnetic device used for scanning blood glucose levels. The filing further suggests that the sensing of liquids, solids, or plasma can be conducted in dynamic environments, suggesting scanning capabilities of glucose levels in the flowing bloodstream. This could eliminate the need for daily incisions to extract blood samples.

Apple’s proposed Sleep Pattern analysis technology would include layered sleep sensors that collect biometric data such as body position, breathing, and heart rate.

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