Qualcomm demos 3D fingerprint technology for mobile phones

Qualcomm Snapdragon Sense ID: A fingerprint map
MAP: Qualcomm’s technology can “detect if you are you under very difficult conditions”

A fingerprint authentication solution that uses ultrasonic technology to scan through a smartphone cover made of glass, stainless steel, sapphire or plastic as well as contaminants on a person’s finger, such as sweat or condensation, has been unveiled by Qualcomm. The biometric technology can “detect if you are you under very difficult conditions,” product manager Max Hamel has told NFC World.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sense ID 3D fingerprint technology has been designed to “enhance authentication capabilities, usability and integration over legacy capacitive touch-based fingerprint technologies,” the company says.

The solution incorporates a Qualcomm biometric integrated circuit (QBIC), custom sensor technology and algorithms managed by the company’s hardware-based SecureMSM technology and uses sound waves to “directly penetrate the outer layers of skin, detecting three-dimensional details and unique fingerprint characteristics including fingerprint ridges and sweat pores.”

Sense ID is able to see deep into the user’s skin, generating a three dimensional feature map that is much more detailed than the 2D surface image produced by capacitive sensors, Hamel explained to NFC World during a demonstration of the technology at Mobile World Congress.

“On the convenience side, if you have moisture or sweaty fingers because you’ve just eaten something greasy, we will scan right through that, no problem, because sound goes through moisture extremely well,” Hamel added.

“Another benefit is, from an industrial design implementation standpoint, we can go through very thick materials. We can easily detect if you are you or not you under very difficult conditions. Most technologies you put inside of a button so you have to cut a hole in the glass for it to work. We can go underneath the glass. Not on the display, it can be anywhere around the display because we’re not conductive; it could be aluminum, steel, plastic, glass, no problem.”

“We are going to be in production during the second half of this year,” Hamel continued. “We’re certainly very bullish on [biometric authentication]. We believe it’s going to be a staple of smartphones going forward, without a doubt.”

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