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Fingerprint Cards targets new biometrics markets with mobile capacitive bounce-back ahead

Fingerprint Cards targets new biometrics markets with mobile capacitive bounce-back ahead
 

Moving back to Sweden to take over as the CEO of Fingerprint Cards was a big change for Ted Hansson after 20 years of living in Asia.

Much of that time was spent building up FPC’s mobile and door lock business in China. “Working from Starbucks to having five offices in China and more than 100 staff has been a big thing for me,” he tells Biometric Update during a video call.

Returning to Europe, where Fingerprint Cards’ main ASIC, algorithm, and system development sites are located, he has worked on “understanding the payment business on a deeper level.” Mobile payments are so dominant in Asia that Ted was somewhat skeptical about the future potential of biometric cards, but now, after making the move, he sees not just potential but momentum.

The company’s geographic balance has long been an uneven one, with 98 percent of revenue in China. The three focused outside of Europe are growth areas.

Switching his focus towards the new growth areas, therefore, has been the biggest adjustment for Hansson.

Growth and partners

As a small company based in a traditionally neutral country, Hansson sees Fingerprint Cards as well positioned to serve growing markets everywhere. With the recent introduction of its under-display sensor, a new area in mobile has been added to its portfolio.

“So even in our legacy business, if you want to call it that, there is a lot of potential for growth, actually,” Hansson says, despite flat smartphone numbers overall.

Hansson says the PC market is growing with the company’s deals with six of the top brands, and the company is working on a complete biometric sensor (match-on-chip) with an in-house MCU.

This opens up system-level optimizations not possible before, he explains. “We can also drive the performance to the next level, take better control of the supply chain, and get rid of margin-stacking,” Hansson says.

Most of FPC’s revenues in access control have traditionally come from door locks in China.  As these are installed either in new developments or by technicians, rather than homeowners themselves, the market was almost completely frozen by the country’s covid restrictions. As in mobile devices, this bump in the road affected Fingerprint Cards’ top-line results, but is now behind the company.

Now it is pursuing more launches with Western companies, but here the access control market is different, and includes a broader range of physical and logical access use cases, and devices like FIDO tokens.

This area is now a higher priority in short term, Hansson says. “We see that there is more impact on that market compared to the payment market.”

Fingerprint Cards’ payment ambition remains the same, however, according to Hansson.  The company is still working with leading ecosystem partners, he says, “so we are ready for the volume.”

Strategically, however, it is following the market, rather than trying to “push” it from “far back in the value chain.”

Preparing for new growth markets

The biometric access control markets in China and the West are different in more ways than just the range of use cases where adoption is rising, Hansson says.

“In China, there are many, many brands that push a Swedish flag on their door locks and they write ‘powered by FPC’ and ‘FPC inside’ and so on,” he explains. “So we have a strong brand name there, clearly. We estimate that our market share for door locks in China is close to 80 percent.”

Fingerprint Cards is not just trying to replicate that, because market is a bit different than elsewhere. In China, manufacturers want only the fingerprint sensor component, and price and ease of use are prioritized.

“If you look at Western companies, they don’t know biometrics, but they want to make sure it’s safe, they want to make sure the user gets a good experience, and they are looking for a partner who can guide them, and help them to make a biometric system,” Hansson says in contrast. “So they’re asking for much more.”

That means offering support, MCU software algorithms, tuning, and even complete modules already painted.

“In China they only want the silicon. They can find someone who can do it cheaper than I can find.”

Western companies prioritize security, and therefore demand liveness detection and guaranteed performance. Price is not as high a priority, Hansson says.

Business development for new use cases

More business development work remains, Hansson says, but more in terms of use cases than brands in established applications.

His example is the television remote control. This device could provide child content protection, account access, purchases and more, but today offers no protection.

Work on diversification was already happening under previous CEO Christian Fredrikson, Hansson points out, with the result that when tough times hit Fingerprint Cards’ main revenue area in the fourth quarter of 2022, 35 percent of revenue came from outside of the company’s mobile capacitive sensor business.

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