An in-depth look at fingerprint sensor technology amid ‘iPhone 5S’ rumors

Motorola Atrix Fingerprint Sensor (via DigitalTrends)

Motorola Atrix Fingerprint Sensor (via DigitalTrends)

As this fall approaches, both rumors and actual evidence have pointed to the next iPhone’s marquee feature being a fingerprint sensor for authentication purposes. We previously provided iOS 7-based evidence and information regarding Apple’s work on implementing a fingerprint sensor in future products.

While we reported that Apple is actively developing fingerprint solutions that sit within a display for products a few years into the future, it seems that this year’s iPhone fingerprint sensor could be integrated into the iconic home button.

In light of these rumors, Geppy Parziale, a biometric authentication expert from InvasiveCode, has compiled in-depth look at the technology that powers miniature fingerprint sensors:

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Rumored iPhone 5S fingerprint sensor more likely to be in the screen, not the home button

Credit: Apple/USPTO

Credit: Apple/USPTO

An Apple patent published today suggests that the long-rumored fingerprint sensor for the iPhone 5S may be built into the phone’s screen, rather than the home button, as had been previously suggested (via CNET).

A fingerprint sensor has been one of the two most persistent rumors for a distinguishing feature for the 5S, the other being NFC. A combination of the two as has been recently suggested - using a fingerprint to verify purchases as well as unlock the device – would certainly be a killer feature, though it’s worth noting that Apple isn’t generally an early adopter of new technologies like cardless payments. Fingerprint sensors themselves are a mature tech, with rumors of iPhone inclusion dating back to Apple’s acquisition of mobile security specialists AuthenTec last year …

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iWatch’s novelty emerges as Apple taps sensor and fitness experts

Apple’s Tim Cook, Bob Mansfield, Kevin Lynch

Apple’s Tim Cook, Bob Mansfield, Kevin Lynch

Apple has begun assembling a team of hardware and software engineering, medical sensor, manufacturing, and fitness experts, indicating the company is moving forward with a project to build a fitness-oriented, sensor-laden wearable computer, according to our sources.

Over the past half-decade-or-so, Apple has experimented with and shelved numerous wearable computer designs. Internal prototypes have included designs that could clip onto different pieces of clothing (like an iPod shuffle/nano) in addition to devices that could wrap around a wrist.

Based on comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook and numerous reports, the wrist is the part of the body in which top Apple executives are currently targeting…

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Digitimes: Initial ‘iPhone 5S’ shipments to be constrained as fingerprint sensors hit low yield-rates

Digitimes, which is notorious for its mixed track record, is out with a new report claiming that initial shipments of Apple’s next-generation iPhone will be in tight supply. The reason being low yield rates for the production of the sensor for the device’s rumored fingerprint scanning technology. That’s in addition to some chips required to power the new iPhone’s LCD.

Poor yields of fingerprint-recognition chips and LCD driver ICs will likely force Apple to reduce first-quarter shipments of the rumored iPhone 5S, which is slated for launch in September 2013, according to industry sources. Volume production of fingerprint-recognition and LCD driver chips for the iPhone 5S should have started at the end of June or early in July, but issues related to yield rates will delay commercial production of the two chips to the end of July, therefore affecting the initial supply of the iPhone 5S, the sources explained.

Furthermore, the site says that production of said device’s sensors should have begun late last month or earlier this month, but production won’t actually begin until later this month. This in turn will affect initial shipments of the new iPhone come September. Digitimes says this will result in 3 million delayed units…

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Apple patent application describes fingerprint sensor tech rumored for iPhone 5S

Apple-patent-fingerprint-sensor

There have been no shortage of fingerprint sensor rumors surfacing since Apple acquired Authentec last year. According to several reports from analysts, including the often reliable Ming-Chi Kuo and the not as reliable Topeka Capital analyst Brian White, Apple’s next-generation iPhone is likely to include a fingerprint sensor. We’ve discussed how it could certainly make a stand out hardware feature for Apple’s expected “S” upgrade, and today the US Patent and Trademark Office published patent applications that show Apple could be experimenting with exactly that (via PatentlyApple).

According to one aspect of the present disclosure, a biometric sensor assembly, such as a fingerprint sensor, comprises a substrate to which is mounted a die containing sensor circuitry and at least one conductive bezel. As used in the description and claims that follow, “bezel” means a unitary, substantially uniformly composed structure, most typically metal or conductive plastic. The die and the bezel are encased in a unitary encapsulation structure to protect those elements from mechanical, electrical, and environmental damage, yet with a portion of a surface of the die and the bezel exposed or at most thinly covered by the encapsulation or other coating material structure

Validity-Fingerprint-sensorThe patent describes a process of embedding a fingerprint sensor into the bezel of a device, which sounds a lot like the finger print sensors Validity was showing off embedded in Android devices at CES this year (pictured right). Apple notes in the patent application that the sensor would be “approximately the width of an average user’s fingertip, but only several pixels tall, typically between 1 and 8 pixels, and possibly as many as 16 pixels tall” when viewed from above.

Apple doesn’t get too into what functions for users the fingerprint sensor would provide, but does note that “the sensor captures a number of thin strips of the fingerprint as the finger is swiped, and the complete fingerprint is assembled in software for use in authentication.” Read more