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Apple's fingerprint sensor encapsulation tech could be headed for future iPhone

post #1 of 39
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple filing for a unique encapsulation structure which holds both a fingerprint sensor and its conductive bezel, allowing for a smaller, more protective final component suitable for a mobile device.

Fingerprint
Fingerprint sensor surface array (16), die (14) and bezels (18). | Source: USPTO


Apple's patent application, filed in February and titled "Integrally molded die and bezel structure for fingerprint sensors and the like," describes a unitary encapsulation structure that protects a delicate biometric array, while still allowing for a portion of the sensor and bezel to be exposed or thinly coated with a protective seal. While the filing is for a "strip" type sensor, the technology can feasibly be applied to other fingerprinting methods.

As noted in the filing, current electrical-based sensors are formed in a package containing the die, which holds a semiconductor and said sensors along with related circuitry. Because of the small die size, secondary structures like a lead frame and wires are needed to make an electrical connection between the die and the printed circuit board on which it is situated. These structures are then encased in an encapsulation material to protect the intricate wirebonding and other internal components from damage.

Because such sensors can only operate within a certain threshold distance between a user's fingerprint and the die, many encapsulation methods leave the package uncovered.

Current circuit designs may also use a small electrical current to charge a user's finger for reading. In order to send the correct current through the finger, small contact structures are formed and disposed near the sensing die. These "bezels" are largely positioned in the same plane as the upper sensing surface of the die, thus ensuring both a charged finger and ideal positioning for the sensor.

Fingerprint
Cutaway of assembly with finger.


Apple's patent filing looks to combine the encapsulated die with the bezel contact structures to form a single unitary package:

By encasing both the bezel and the sensor die in the encapsulation structure, those elements may be brought closer together than heretofore possible. In addition, the encapsulation structure physically protects the bezel and sensor die, and in particular maintains the spacing therebetween, in a fashion not possible by currently known device designs.


In one embodiment, the sensor assembly includes a substrate like a PCB or ceramic structure with a region specifically designed to receive a die assembly, as well as regions for holding bezels. The encapsulation structure is molded from a resin or plastic and is injected in such a way as to leave the top portion of the die and bezel parallel or nearly coplanar. These structures can be either partially exposed, or covered with a thin layer of material to protect it from the elements.

In addition to the above embodiments, the filing notes that the bezels can be provided with visual indicators and possibly a light source.

The invention would prove to be of substantial value if Apple were to deploy a fingerprint reader in a future iteration of the iPhone, as the tech would allow for a small, reasonably durable component that can withstand everyday wear and tear.

Fingerprint
View of bezel frame according to one embodiment.


Apple is widely rumored to be incorporating fingerprint scanning technology into its next-generation iOS devices, with the forthcoming "iPhone 5" being a prime candidate. Rumors and speculation were sparked by the company's 2012 acquisition of biometrics firm Authentec.

Interestingly, Apple's filing cites multiple patents and patent applications on fingerprint biometrics owned by STMicroelectronics, one of the world's largest semiconductor companies. Besides sensors and embedded processing solutions, the firm also supplied Apple with the three-axis gyroscope found in the iPhone 5.

At least one of the inventors credited with the application, Giovanni Gozzini, is also named on the cited STMicroelectronics patents. Accompanying Gozzini in the Apple-assigned filing are Robert Henry Bond and Alan Kramer.
post #2 of 39
You write 'with the forthcoming "iPhone 5" being a prime candidate'. I guess you meant the iPhone 6 or else you lost the 's' somewhere... ;-)
post #3 of 39
I can't see them adding new hardware like this until iP6. The S models are streamlining and speed iterations. A feature like this would be a marquee feature methinks, therefore it will be on the 6 - if this tech is implemented soon.

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post #4 of 39
Here's Apple again beating everyone else to the punch...I can see this being a killer feature on a future IPhone and iPad.
post #5 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by lostkiwi View Post

I can't see them adding new hardware like this until iP6. The S models are streamlining and speed iterations. A feature like this would be a marquee feature methinks, therefore it will be on the 6 - if this tech is implemented soon.

The 4S got Siri.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #6 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by rcoleman1 View Post

Here's Apple again beating everyone else to the punch...I can see this being a killer feature on a future IPhone and iPad.

Apple didn't release anything with a finger print sensor, yet. Don't jump the gun. And there are laptops and phones o the market with fingerprint sensors already.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #7 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post


Apple didn't release anything with a finger print sensor, yet. Don't jump the gun. 

Wise words. I sense something is cooking at Apple about this finger print sensor, Bluetooth 4 etc. I hope I won't be disappointed.

post #8 of 39
While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.
post #9 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post

Wise words. I sense something is cooking at Apple about this finger print sensor, Bluetooth 4 etc. I hope I won't be disappointed.

I wonder if they can use the fingerprint scanner as part of a payment authentication?

They bought a whole company just for this technology....so we know they are going to use fingerprint scanning somehow....

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post #10 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by droslovinia View Post

While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.

Interesting thought but the two technologies are completely unrelated, in fact, the two technologies are so far removed that we may as well suggest that eye tracking will lead to matter-energy converters in Samsung products.
post #11 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by droslovinia View Post

While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.

How's the Facial Recognition in Android works out for you?

post #12 of 39
Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.
post #13 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

I wonder if they can use the fingerprint scanner as part of a payment authentication?

They bought a whole company just for this technology....so we know they are going to use fingerprint scanning somehow....

I think they have something in mind before they bought the company. Kind of like you know what you wanna do then shop around for a company that fits. So it must be something bigger than just to unlock the screen etc.

The timeline seems to coincide with the support for Bluetooth 4 on iPhone. And the U-turn of Bob Mansfield who also heads the wireless dept. Very interesting.

post #14 of 39
Retina-scanning is done with a laser. I don't see Samsung adding a laser to their phones anytime soon.
post #15 of 39
Apple will release it when two things happen-- first the hardware has to be ready for robust deployment at volume. Apple doesn't want to ship a feature that causes an increase in return rates. Secondly there needs to be a compelling usability benefit for the customer.

Either Apple wallet or some other feature that makes fingerprint sensors really compelling needs to be finished.

Who knows which device will be the one where both of those things are completed.

Also, the next iPhone may be a 6, or they might give up the numbering completely and go to an iPhone "pro" and regular, and just give them year numbers since they do one each year "the 2013 iPhone" and the "2013 iPhone Pro".
post #16 of 39

I can see this being built into the back house of an iPhone instad of how many phones have it now. That way, you can just hold the phone as normal and when the fingerprint API is requested, you're fingers will already be there.

post #17 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shiva Nagi View Post

how much effective is that sensor is??

 

Ask the Mythbusters to test this out

post #18 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by AAPLforLife View Post

Retina-scanning is done with a laser. I don't see Samsung adding a laser to their phones anytime soon.

You've seen too much movies.  Retina-scanning uses pictures of the retina colours and blood vessel patterns from an optic camera.

post #19 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Mecca View Post

Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.

Mittens attatched with duct tape. That's should work until one or the other comes to their senses and files for divorce.
post #20 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Mecca View Post

Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.

 

Use your penis as the authentication digit instead.

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post #21 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by droslovinia View Post

While this sounds exciting, and I'm planning to buy the next iPhone, I can't help but wonder whether the new "follow your eyes" features in the new Samsung phone aren't a precursor to retina-scanning technology that may trump this fingerprinting idea.

 

That feature has proven to be nothing more than a gimmick. It doesn't work very well, because it's not very practical on a mobile device; a device that's constantly moving around and people are constantly looking away for other reasons.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

I wonder if they can use the fingerprint scanner as part of a payment authentication?

They bought a whole company just for this technology....so we know they are going to use fingerprint scanning somehow....

 

I'm pretty sure, this is exactly why they bought the company.

 

When you hold your iPhone up to an NFC terminal, the iPhone will ask you to authenticate by using your finger. Once cleared, it will transmit the credit card info you have saved in your iTunes account.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #22 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Mecca View Post

Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.

 

If this is an issue for you, you have too many other problems with your marriage to worry about how your phone is unlocked.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #23 of 39
While cool and interesting, it's only useful TO ME if I can use it as a digital wallet. Otherwise, I can use my pin just fine.

Wonder if this will eventually extend to iPod touch as well. Assuming it isn't vapor ware.
post #24 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

 

Use your penis as the authentication digit instead.

 

lol....that leads to support issues about 9 months later.....

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post #25 of 39
Apple never disappoints: they ALWAYS draw the freakiest fingers.
post #26 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Fingerprint
Cutaway of assembly with finger.

I was confused; I thought this was a wooden bowl at first.
post #27 of 39
I think it's pretty clear that we will see fingerprint scanning in a future iPhone. Entering a numerical code is a pain and not super secure. Android has tried swiping patterns, MS has tried drawing on photos. As our phones do so much now and hold so much information, security is becoming more and more important. I expect a fingerprint scanner under the home button to be used to unlock your phone (swipe the screen then press the home button).
post #28 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by markbriton View Post

I expect a fingerprint scanner under the home button to be used to unlock your phone (swipe the screen then press the home button).

I don't think,you need to swipe anymore. Just put your thumb on the home button it will turn on your screen and check your fingerprint at the same time. If you're good it'll open the phone. Maybe that's why in iOS 7 you have Slide to Unlock graphic on the home screen just barely.
post #29 of 39
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In addition to the above embodiments, the filing notes that the bezels can be provided with visual indicators and possibly a light source.

 

Maybe Apple could put the sensor off-screen in the iPhone / iPad bezel, next to the home button.

When it's necessary to scan your thumb / finger print, an outline could light up around the sensor.

I seem to recall an Apple patent from several years ago about sensors outside the touchscreen.

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post #30 of 39
Originally Posted by matrix07 View Post


I don't think,you need to swipe anymore. Just put your thumb on the home button it will turn on your screen and check your fingerprint at the same time. If you're good it'll open the phone. Maybe that's why in iOS 7 you have Slide to Unlock graphic on the home screen just barely.

 

That's what I'm hoping.  Putting the sensor directly in the touchscreen or behind the home button

would be better than putting it in the bezel (as I mentioned earlier.)  And yes, that could explain why the

up-arrow on the lock screen graphic is right at the bottom edge of the display.

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post #31 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Mecca View Post

Question: If married and you don't want your spouse to look at your iPhone, what happens when one spouse is sleeping and the other is awake and the spouse takes the finger of the sleeping person and places is it on the iPhone? Will it unlock? Hope there is a secondary backup when authorized.

The problem may lye elsewhwere than the technology in this situation. 

post #32 of 39
Figure 6 makes it look like the iPhone will be able to cook Jiffy Pop Popcorn.
post #33 of 39
The announcement of the iCloud Keychains feature in iOS 7 makes me think this fingerprint sensor tech will not be ready anytime soon. Fingerprint authentication would obviate the need for the Keychains feature.
post #34 of 39
Fingerprint auth. allows Apple to have true Triple Factor Auhentication:

1) Something you know: Passcode or Apple ID Password

2) Something you have: iPhone...

3) Something you are: Thumbprint scan

This combination would be a very strong combo with the banks, Paypal, Visa/MC etc. Get these fus on board, and you've got yourself a payment platform. Getting EPOS systems compliant, now that's a giant hurdle. If the above guys are suitably impressed, they can really help roll out some hardware if necessary, or with pci compliance software-side.

I'm flogging a dead horse, but Apple really need to sort out multiple accounts on iOS devices. That is, multiple admin and basic users of the same Apple ID/iTunes/iCloud account. They can have their own contacts, duplicates with different names (Dad, nicknames etc.) but have the same music, shared calendars (as Steve tried to show with his and his wife's at iCloud intro... never really materialised), and linked to their Game Center IDs (which one Apple ID can currently have many of, with different friends). Basic users would be great for your kids and allow admin auth. for restrictions.
post #35 of 39
So typing on your computer or using your iDevice is now going to capture your fingerprints to please their psychopathic friends at the NSA.
post #36 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by geekdad View Post

lol....that leads to support issues about 9 months later.....

Only if you hold it wrong.
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post #37 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

The 4S got Siri.
That is a good point. In my defence, I forgot about Siri as I almost never use it - my strange foreign NZ accent is almost indecipherable to Siri, making it useless to me.

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post #38 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

Use your penis as the authentication digit instead.
Might make your meetings at work more interesting when you need to check something on your phone.
Of course it depends what you do for work - but that is another conversation entirely.

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post #39 of 39
Quote:
Originally Posted by lostkiwi View Post

Might make your meetings at work more interesting when you need to check something on your phone.
Of course it depends what you do for work - but that is another conversation entirely.

 

I can see the blurb when it's released:

 

The New iPhone - Not Work Approved

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