In today’s digital age, both businesses and governments have access to an overwhelming number of biometric solutions. From payments to PCs – choosing the right technology, at the right time and for a reasonable price has become increasingly challenging. In this blog post, Kevin Hung, FAE Director at NEXT Biometrics, explores and explains why investing in Active ThermalTM sensor technology is a cost-efficient solution for OEMs looking to keep up with the rapid development and ensure secure, future-proofed product integrations.
Remember Diamonds are forever?
If you happen to know your 007 trivia – you might remember what an iconic, futuristic “high-tech” moment it was when Tiffany Lace copied Bond’s (faked) fingerprint from a glass and then scanned it to verify his identity as Peter Frank. On top of this, all of the biometric magic also happened thanks to advanced technology gadgets integrated in the wardrobe of her very own bedroom.
This was 1971.
52 years ago.
What will our own future hold? Which will the corresponding “wow!” moments be 52 years from now, in 2075? I dare not say. However, fingerprints and fingerprint technology will be around also then.
Despite occasional reports on spoofing-attempts, there are many reasons this biometric authentication method continues to gain popularity. Compared to usernames and passwords (which can easily be hacked) even though there is no such thing as 100 percent security – hacking or spoofing a fingerprint still require a lot of effort from potential threat actors.
The evolving threat landscape is however not something to take lightly as a manufacturer. Security ought to be one of the most important features of your product and it does not stop there.
Let’s have a look at a few of the challenges OEMs face today:
- Explosive technology pace requires rapid decisions
Today’s rapid technology development does not only provide opportunities for first mover advantages. It has also changed the processes of business and product development and its corresponding decision processes at their core. Nobody wants to become the new Kodak and to avoid it, rapid decisions are often required to make sure the organization is not left behind. The need for faster decisions and working processes however also demands more of OEMs: higher levels of technological knowledge are needed to avoid making costly mistakes.
- Consumer demands for design and usability must meet security requirements
End-user are becoming pickier and pickier. Today, it just won’t do to offer either a secure and well-functioning authentication solution or one that’s also aesthetically well-integrated to the product. Many products today have modern and non-traditional designs, which further highlights the need for flexible and adaptable biometric modules to ensure smooth and simple product integration.
- Robustness through the product lifecycle
Winter or summer, wet or dry fingers – a modern sensor solution must be robust and have reliable performance, as your end-users expects it to work without interruptions. Every day and in the most demanding situations.
- Finding a partner with mass-production capabilities
Innovating is important, but assembly, mass-production capabilities and distribution is key to reach the market. The global semiconductor shortage has continued. According to industry sources the shortage is expected to end during the end of 2023, but there are also voices believing we will have to live with this well into 2024. Thus, finding and teaming up with a reliable partner – preferably one with proven ability to mass-produce – is crucial. At Next, we’re proud that we’ve demonstrated our ability and so far, we have shipped over 10 000 000 sensors.
- Comparing, understanding and finding the right match for your product
In my role I often meet OEMs in the middle of evaluating and choosing the best fingerprint sensor solution. One size certainly does not fit all application areas, and thus it’s important not only to be educated and aware of the different options. And in addition to this, also understand for which purposes which technology will be the best match.
As Next is currently the world’s only provider of Active ThermalTM fingerprint technology and I often get questions of how it works, I outline it for you below. (Please note that I will presume that you’re already familiar with the basic principles of optical and capacitive sensor functionality, thus focusing strictly on Active ThermalTM).
What is Active ThermalTM technology?
There are two types of thermal sensors: passive and active. Passive thermal sensors evaluate fingerprint profiles by measuring the difference in surface temperature across an array of pixels. An Active ThermalTM sensor evaluates the fingerprint profile by measuring the difference in thermal capacity, across an array of pixels.
Now, let’s take a look at how this technology works when scanning a fingerprint.
Live human skin contains moisture, which takes away part of the heat generated from the sensor surface. Each Active ThermalTM pixel can precisely generate a small amount of heat and measure the amount of heat transfer during an image scan to identify the fingerprint’s ridges and valleys. Hence, an Active ThermalTM sensor is not affected by ambient temperature and can properly operate across a wide range of temperatures. (At Next, we’re proud to guarantee full functionality for temperatures ranging from -20°C up to 60°C).
Thermal sensor solutions have steadily gained more attention in the industry. It offers an attractive, large FAP standard sensing area combined with an ultra-thin form factor. Compared to competing technologies, thermal sensors also offer many advantages such as sunlight interference immunity, working very well with moisture and sweaty fingers and a low sensitivity to electrical and environmental noise. Thus, they provide great image performance for both indoor and outdoor applications.
Despite the many additional features, it remains at a very attractive price point for most high-security applications.
Why our customers switch to Active ThermalTM Technology
Previously in this post I outlined the importance of choosing the right sensor solution for your product and its intended application area. Choose your biometric technology partner wisely as all players in our industry have their own specialization.
For example, at Next we’ve set out to be the number one name for four market segments: Public security, Access Control, Office & Notebooks and Payments & Fintech. That’s it. Having a solid strategy in place enables us to focus on what truly matters and improve ourselves within those areas. Today we do not focus on sensors for the smartphone segment at all. Rather, our expertise and strong technology know-how is best put at use for implementation in both outdoor and indoor environments with high-security infrastructure.
But don’t just take my word for it. To make your work with product integrations a little bit easier, below I’ve summarized few of the most common reasons our clients change their current sensor solution to our Active ThermalTM instead.
- A secure and “future-proofed” sensor solution.
Although no one can predict the “wow” innovations of 2075 yet – investing in a secure technology is an important step to ensure the future competitiveness of your products as well. Next’s Active ThermalTM technology has proven its ability to prevent a number of fake finger materials from registering a fingerprint. Fake finger materials that are low in specific heat capacity, and consequently thermal effusivity, will not trigger the image capture mechanism. To a certain degree, this can be viewed as a physical, anti-spoofing mechanism. Together with our software-based anti-spoofing algorithms, it provides a wider spectrum of attack detection.
Cost-efficiency is one of the most important aspects of the manufacturing process. I’m proud to say we help our customers achieve this, every day, while also fully supporting them through the mass-production. Our sensors are made using low temperature polysilicon thin film transistor (LTPS TFT) technology. The cost-efficiency then, is made possible thanks to the unique and patented characteristics of our Active ThermalTM technology, which – in short – enables us to offer large-sized sensors at an attractive price point.
- Suitable for the most demanding environments. Once design and security are integrated in your product, now you of course want to make sure it can handle its tasks as well. Sunlight, rain, sweaty or moist fingers are just a few of the aspects you need to consider – as mentioned, Active ThermalTM sensors are immune to sunlight interference and provide you with great image performance for both indoor and outdoor applications.
Ready to secure and future-proof your products as well?
Please feel free to drop us an email and let’s talk about what we can do for you.