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MEMS & Sensors

Yole Développement’s latest report, entitled ‘Fingerprint Sensors for Consumer Electronics’, highlights the rapid evolution of fingerprint sensors from the first localized coated button in 2013 to seamless in-display fingerprint detection by 2020. Qualcomm's latest under-display fingerprint announcement exemplifies this evolution, but may be a little bit ahead of what can currently be done in the industry. Yole and other industry players were quite surprised by the timing and the promises made.

Fingerprint Integration Roadmap YoleDeveloppement

Source: Fingerprint Sensor Applications and Technologies – Consumer Market Focus, January 2017, Yole Développement


A few days ago at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) Shanghai, Qualcomm announced new ultrasonic fingerprint technology, its second generation of sensors that go through metal, glass and displays.

Few fingerprint sensor companies can work with glass or other materials on top of the sensor itself. One such solution is Qualcomm’s ultrasonic fingerprint sensor which currently ships in the LeEco LeMax and the Xiaomi Mi 5s. Both of those devices utilize Qualcomm’s first generation ultrasonic fingerprint sensing technology to go through aluminum or glass. For more information, see the teardown of the first version of Qualcomm's piezoelectric micromachined ultrasonic transducer (PMUT) fingerprint sensor by System Plus Consulting, here.

Fingerprint physicalAnalysis SystemPlusConsulting

 

Source: Qualcomm® Snapdragon Sense™ ID 3D Fingerprint, August 2016, System Plus Consulting


Qualcomm’s second generation of ultrasonic fingerprint sensors can sense fingerprints through OLED displays up to 1200 μm thick. It can also operate through combined metal and glass surfaces with a glass thickness of up to 800 μm and an aluminum thickness of up to 650 μm. If under only glass, it can sense a fingerprint effectively through thicknesses up to 800 μm.

The timing of this announcement is surprising, as many industry experts didn’t expect solutions like this from any manufacturer to be mature until 2018. This release seems rather optimistic, and the latest news seems to prove that Qualcomm is far from massive industrialization. But like always, never discount what a player like Qualcomm is able to pull off. Recent Qualcomm investments in piezoelectric technology are a reminder that it puts its money where its mouth is.

Among others players, Goodix has demonstrated similar features at MWC 2017 in Barcelona. And months ago, Synaptics announced a partnership with OxiTechnology, betting on optical detection, although this prevents under-display integration. InvenSense is still working on an ultra-sensitive PMUT scandium-doped piezoelectric solution, and Sonavation is still in talks to integrate its lead zirconate titanate (PZT) sensor. The world's second-ranked player, Fingerprint Cards, is still using under-material sensing technology, based on an upgraded version of capacitive technology.

ConsumerBiometricMarket YoleDeveloppement

Source: Fingerprint Sensor Applications and Technologies – Consumer Market Focus, January 2017, Yole Développement


What about the leader of this consumer market? Has Apple finally overcome current Qualcomm's production ramp-up, performance and reactivity limitations on its own? Will it offer the same under-display integration in the rumored iPhone 8/X?

The mystery remains with Apple. However, they have a long history and strong competency in the business thanks to its 2012 Authentec acquisition, as explained in KnowMade’s patent analysis of this sector. It would be a strange move from Apple to remove Touch ID and rely on a new biometric solution when its prior investments have been so big. It should therefore not be surprising to see Apple surpass its competition with under-display integration on a massive scale. This race is epic – and we are on the verge of seeing massive changes in the fingerprint industry.

 FingerprintPatentApplicants Knowmade

 Source: Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors Patent Landscape, January 2015, KnowMade


Author: Guillaume Girardin, MEMS and Sensors Senior Analyst at Yole Développement

Related reports:

cover FingerPrintThe rapid-changing fingerprint technology market has expanded impressively into the consumer space – now shipment volumes will benefit from an 19% CAGR through to 2022, when the market will be worth $4.7B.

More here

 

 

- Capacitive Fingerprint Sensors Patent Landscape, by KnowMade

- Qualcomm® Snapdragon Sense™ ID 3D Fingerprint, by System Plus Consulting

- Sensors for Biometry and Recognition, by Yole Développement

- Fingerprint Cards’ FPC1268 in the Huawei Mate 9 Pro & P10 series, by System Plus Consulting

 

 

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