Qualcomm Unveils New Ultrasonic 3D Fingerprint Scanner

High tech ID scanners have been a part of popular culture for years, figuring as pivotal plot points in adventure films and television serials for decades. But biometrics is a very real science, and computerized fingerprint recognition has long been a staple of state of the art security systems. More recently, fingerprint ID scanners have begun to be built into premium smartphone designs, with leading manufacturers using them as major security selling points. Smartphone manufacturers promise that fingerprint ID scanning offers greater security combined with added convenience. Unfortunately, smartphone fingerprint ID technology hasn’t quite been able to live up to the hype. That is, until now. By year’s end, Qualcomm plans to introduce the first ultrasonic 3D fingerprint scanner to the market, and it looks set to finally deliver on the promise of convenient smartphone security

The Current State of Fingerprint ID Scanners

A number of premium smartphones and phablets currently feature fingerprint ID scanners. Indeed, both Apple and Samsung have high profile handsets that feature fingerprint scanners that allow users to quickly lock and unlock their smartphones, as well as verify electronic purchases and conduct basic online banking transactions. But the current state of smartphone fingerprint scanning is, at best, somewhat problematical. First, the scanners often have difficulty simply reading the owner’s fingerprints. This is particularly true when the user’s hands are wet or dirty, or even slightly out of alignment with the sensor. Second, and more importantly, smartphone fingerprint scanners are currently extremely easy to spoof. This is particularly troublesome as more banks and retailers jump on the security bandwagon, promoting fingerprint authentication as the best way to conduct secure transactions. But if the current state of fingerprint ID scanning is somewhat lacking, it’s about to get a major upgrade with the release of Qualcomm’s new 3D ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.

The Next Generation of Fingerprint Scanners is Here

This year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona played host to a staggering number of new tech innovations, one of which was Qualcomm’s new ultrasonic 3D fingerprint scanner. Qualcomm’s use of ultrasonic technology looks set to deliver the convenience and security that previous fingerprint scanners have only been able to promise. Qualcomm’s new scanner uses ultrasonic waves to penetrate the dermal layers of the finger, creating a highly detailed 3D map of user’s fingerprints. Because the new technology generates such a detailed and accurate fingerprint map, it is much harder to fool than optical or capacitive fingerprint scanners. The ultrasonic scanning process is so sensitive, that users will also experience a significant drop in false, or incomplete, readings. The current wave of commercial ID scanners tends to falter when they attempt to map a fingerprint through dirt or body oils, causing frustration when users try to quickly lock or unlock their smartphones.

Inside the Ultrasonic Scanner

Qualcomm’s new 3D scanner incorporates the biometric security protocols developed by the Fido Alliance. Fido’s mission has always been to develop the most secure alternatives to a character based password, and it is their security protocols that have been adopted by major banking institutions and software developers. This puts Qualcomm’s new fingerprint scanning technology at the cutting edge of security. The ultrasonic nature of the scanner itself means that it can be housed behind plastic, glass, or metal, with no drop in performance. This makes Qualcomm’s new scanner extremely flexible from a manufacturing perspective, and will allow smartphone designers to easily incorporate it into future devices.

When to Expect Ultrasonic 3D Scanning on Your Smartphone

Qualcomm’s 3D ultrasonic fingerprint scanner has been designed to be compatible with Snapdragon processors in the 800, 600, and 400 series. This clearly puts it on a fast track to the retail market. Smartphone manufacturers who have worked with Qualcomm in the past have already been given access to the technology, and have been including ultrasonic 3D scanners in some of their prototypes. It is expected that the first smartphones featuring Qualcomm’s new ultrasonic 3D scanning technology will begin to hit the market before the end of this year.

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