Flexible fingerprint sensors can be seamlessly integrated into products, bringing game-changing capabilities to biometric applications.
Fingerprint scanning is a very common form of biometric authentication which is more dominant in security applications but is rapidly penetrating other industries including banking, government and healthcare. Conventional fingerprint scanners, particularly those that image large areas, can be bulky, heavy and expensive to produce. Therefore, with the proliferation of fingerprint verification more innovative solutions are needed to improve existing and enable new use cases.
Flexible fingerprint sensors based on organic electronics are ultra-thin, light and robust. They can be made into different form factors allowing for their integration into devices with various designs. As they are made of plastic they bring cost advantages to large area manufacturing due to the low temperature process being used and high yield. FlexEnable has developed, with partner ISORG, the world’s first 500 dpi flexible fingerprint sensor on plastic. The 0.3mm thick optical sensor allows for small and large area fingerprint scanning, and can also image veins. The ability to capture both the fingerprints and the veins makes this solution unique as it provides two modes of authentication and a mode for liveness detection. The sensor is also suitable for FBI certification.
Applications of FlexEnable’s flexible fingerprint sensors:
- Mobile phones
Integrating a fingerprint scanner into a smartphone without reducing the display area is challenging. Thanks to their ultra-thinness, robustness and conformability, flexible fingerprint sensors offer alternative integration approaches not possible with rigid sensors: 1) placing the flexible fingerprint sensor under the display to enable more elegant mobile phone designs, or 2) wrapping the flexible sensor around the back cover or the side of the phone thereby making it more intuitive for the user to authenticate themselves with a single hand while holding the phone. Because the sensor is plastic and flexible, it can be designed to fit the specific shape and size needed for the phone, working around other components such as the camera lens and buttons.
With the growing use of wearable devices such as smart watches, new use cases are created. For example, users may be using their wearable device to execute payments as well as accessing information. Convenience and security is key, and integrating a fingerprint sensor in the design is a viable option. As flexible sensors can be easily conformed to the wrist they can be integrated in the watchstrap.
A recent study by Frost and Sullivan projects that one in three cars will be using biometrics for identification and personalisation by 2025. As one of the most widely used biometric technologies, fingerprint sensors have the potential to become an important part of the driver’s experience. Imagine a car that can personalise the experience for the driver when he or she touches the steering wheel: it starts, or plays favourite music, or adjusts the car’s seat height. The ability for the car to know for certain who is at the wheel at all times could also have exciting opportunities for the car insurance industry.
- Border control
One of the key criteria when selecting a fingerprint authentication system for border control or law enforcement is the speed of acquisition of the subject’s fingerprints. The increasingly common requirement to acquire all ten fingerprints means that with existing technology the officer needs to capture at least three separate images per user, four fingers on the left hand, four fingers on the right hand and the two thumbs. If the large area sensor can be curved so the user can put all their fingers around it, this would only require a single acquisition per hand which would save border control and law enforcement officers precious time when registering a lot of people. Additionally, light, thin and robust flexible fingerprint sensors can open up new markets like handheld units that can be used by officers on the go or in remote locations for citizen registration.
Smartcards are widely used as an identity verification tool and usually require a pin code. Today, there is a megatrend in banking to use biometrics in order to bring improved security without compromising on the ease of use of smartcards – with fingerprint sensors being one of the key contenders. This requires the integration of thin and flexible fingerprint sensors into smartcards. FlexEnable showcased a 500 dpi flexible fingerprint sensor in a smartcard form factor at Trustech 2016.
Other industries where the use of smartcards is expanding include healthcare, government and security (access control).
- Point of Sale (PoS)
Integrating biometric fingerprint readers into PoS devices allows firms to efficiently manage their retail system by implementing biometric login for staff which is considered time-efficient and more secure in terms of addressing transaction issues like payroll theft and unaccounted for transactions. The same technology can also be used to allow customers to authenticate payments by using their fingerprint. As they are thin, light and glass-free, flexible fingerprint sensors are a suitable addition to PoS devices as they don’t compromise product design and convenience.
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