Apple details in-display fingerprint sensor tech in patent filing from AuthenTec cofounder

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published one of the first AuthenTec patent applications assigned to Apple, with the property describing an advanced method of fingerprint identification that can be embedded into a mobile device's display.

Fingerprint Sensor
Source: USPTO


Apple's sensor patent details a technology that can not only fit into a mobile device like an iPhone, but can "read" biometric characteristics of a finger from distances larger than existing methods afford. The application, titled "Finger sensor having pixel sensing circuitry for coupling electrodes and pixel sensing traces and related methods," credits AuthenTec co-founder Dale R. Setlak as its inventor.

Current rumors and speculation point to a next-generation iPhone with fingerprint sensor built into the home button. If the technology outlined in Thursday's application is used, however, the sensor may instead be embedded in the iPhone's display.

The patent language notes the fingerprint sensor can be stacked with, or part of, an LCD display. As such, the sensor can also be used as a means of input, and can also be used in conjunction with other circuitry to support selection function, provide tactile feedback, or power up a device. Of note, the document points out that the sensor array can be either rigid or flexible, meaning mounting options are vast.

Fingerprint Sensor


Key to the invention are pixel sensing traces coupled to the fingerprint sensor chip, which extend outward to form a first "metallization layer." These traces can be disposed in a variety of pixel sensing traces, as well as columns and rows of pixels, to form the required array. Certain embodiments support multiple sensors or staggered arrangements of sensing pixels depending on the application.

Sitting on top of the sensing traces is a dielectric substrate, which carries drive-or-shield electrodes that create a second metallization layer. In this setup, the structure of the pixel sensing traces below the substrate are insulated from the drive/shield electrodes, which are shorter in length than the traces. This arrangement allows the pixel sensing traces to extend beyond the electrodes, thus defining the finger sensing area.

Fingerprint Sensor


Covering the sensing and drive/shield electrode substrate is another insulating layer that sits between the array and a user's finger. As noted in the document, this layer can be "the structural base of the fingerprint sensor."

In operation, the fingerprint sensor works by measuring electrical flux. A first switch couples a drive/shield electrode to touch screen circuitry, a finger drive source, and the voltage reference, while a second switch couples a pixel sensing trace to the field flux sensing component and the voltage reference. Sensing pixels are put into an activate measurement mode, while the electrodes sitting above are switched to a shield mode. Electrodes not situated above activated pixel traces are put into a finger drive mode, thus coupling it to the user's finger. As the pixel traces are scanned, the electrodes are switched between drive and shield modes, with flux measured against the reference voltage.

Fingerprint Sensor
Finger sensor circuit diagram showing sensing traces (33), drive/shield electrodes (35) and switches (42, 43).


When not being used for fingerprinting purposes, the drive/shield electrodes can also be incorporated into touchscreen operations.

The patent application goes on to detail various methods of achieving low electrical crosstalk, minimizing parasitic capacitance, and other techniques that afford efficient functionality.

First filed for in January 2013 with a copending application from 2012, Setlak's invention makes mention of other AuthenTec properties as prior art. According to his LinkedIn profile page, Setlak is now an engineer for Apple in the company's offices in Melbourne, Florida.

Apple acquired the fingerprint sensor maker in 2012 for $356 million, fanning the flames of an iOS device using the firm's technology.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    smiles77smiles77 Posts: 668member
    It just makes sense that when you swipe across the screen to unlock that it would read your fingerprint as the security code. "It just works".
  • Reply 2 of 27
    chandra69chandra69 Posts: 638member


    Edited.


    NULL POINTER EXCEPTION

  • Reply 3 of 27
    Yeah. I sincerely hope next iPhone will innovate again and make copycats harder to do%u2026 Times are right for innovation going past better camera, memory and screen rez specs%u2026
  • Reply 4 of 27
    With so many news outlets and Wall Street analysts focused on the home button containing the finger print sensor, let's see how many stories will be rewritten to focus on the display as the finger print sensor!

    Still, I remember in the early days after Apple's purchase of AuthenTec, stories were focused on the "slide to unlock" area being where the finger print sensor would be located.

    Then rumors from Asia pushed, pulled, twisted the home button over the display and the stories and analysts dropped the display for the home button.

    Just in the past seven days, how many articles have been published by news outlets that the unannounced next iPhone was being delayed due to problems manufacturing the home button finger print sensor?

    There were even stories about LG pushing up the release date of a new phone containing finger print technology just so it could say it had finger print technology first.
  • Reply 5 of 27
    adonissmuadonissmu Posts: 1,770member
    Doesnt matter haters gonna hate
  • Reply 6 of 27


    This looks pretty awesome. I can see several uses for this technology:


     



    1. Could do away with the need for a physical home button and...


    2. Would drastically improve handling non finger touch inputs - i.e. no random menu activations from touches by your earlobe (and would result in no need for proximity sensors, thus reducing other costs in building the phone - even if only marginally)


    3. Security, obviously - would make the phone completely pointless to steal as its resale value would be nil.


    4. Possibly it could also be extended to detect bio-readings such as pulse and maybe even oximetry giving the phone some important uses in the medical field?


    5. The fact that it co-exists with other technologies like flexible screens means that it need not be restricted to phones, but may also be useful for smart watches


    6. Maybe it'll get built into laptops as well - perhaps a security feature built into a touchpad - why steal a laptop that simply will not respond to anyone other than the owners of certain fingerprints? 


     


    Also... perhaps this is why there are rumours of delays in the production of the "screen driver chips" in the forthcoming phone? If this technology is mature enough right now, this is a requirement for brand new manufacturing techniques, which could quite reasonably involve hiccups and delays at the start of the ramp-up.


     


    Finger(print)s crossed that the next iPhone is going to blow our minds!

  • Reply 7 of 27
    if it's fast enough to identify me by the time i finish the slide-to-unlock, that will be incredible.

    however if it fails to identify me more than 1% of the time, it will be incredibly frustrating.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member
    if it's fast enough to identify me by the time i finish the slide-to-unlock, that will be incredible

    I agree. Also, with the fast of recognition, mobile payments will be a breeze- faster than opening your wallet.

    However, this being filed in 2013 and just recently invented, I'm guessing it'll show up in next years version. That's a lot of software, manufacturing, and testing to do in such a short time. Something google would do- release a new yet imperfect product, but not Apple.

    Really, really hope I'm wrong though.
  • Reply 9 of 27
    chandra69chandra69 Posts: 638member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by CogitoDexter View Post


    This looks pretty awesome. I can see several uses for this technology:


     



    1. Could do away with the need for a physical home button and...


    2. Would drastically improve handling non finger touch inputs - i.e. no random menu activations from touches by your earlobe (and would result in no need for proximity sensors, thus reducing other costs in building the phone - even if only marginally)


    3. Security, obviously - would make the phone completely pointless to steal as its resale value would be nil.


    4. Possibly it could also be extended to detect bio-readings such as pulse and maybe even oximetry giving the phone some important uses in the medical field?


    5. The fact that it co-exists with other technologies like flexible screens means that it need not be restricted to phones, but may also be useful for smart watches


    6. Maybe it'll get built into laptops as well - perhaps a security feature built into a touchpad - why steal a laptop that simply will not respond to anyone other than the owners of certain fingerprints? 


     


    Also... perhaps this is why there are rumours of delays in the production of the "screen driver chips" in the forthcoming phone? If this technology is mature enough right now, this is a requirement for brand new manufacturing techniques, which could quite reasonably involve hiccups and delays at the start of the ramp-up.


     


    Finger(print)s crossed that the next iPhone is going to blow our minds!



    Can display context menus when finger hovers  on some item on the screen. :)


    This is going to be great.


     


    Who needs a stylus?image

  • Reply 10 of 27
    irelandireland Posts: 17,128member
    smiles77 wrote: »
    It just makes sense that when you swipe across the screen to unlock that it would read your fingerprint as the security code. "It just works".

    Why the need to swipe?
  • Reply 11 of 27
    irelandireland Posts: 17,128member
    This looks pretty awesome. I can see several uses for this technology:
    1. Could do away with the need for a physical home button and...

    So how do you quit an app?
  • Reply 12 of 27

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Andysol View Post





    I agree. Also, with the fast of recognition, mobile payments will be a breeze- faster than opening your wallet.



    However, this being filed in 2013 and just recently invented, I'm guessing it'll show up in next years version. That's a lot of software, manufacturing, and testing to do in such a short time. Something google would do- release a new yet imperfect product, but not Apple.



    Really, really hope I'm wrong though.


    When they filed the technology, that means they probably have it all finished with a working prototype. I think all the software and testing and prototyping has been done prior to the filing. I'd love to see how Android tries to find a way around this patent. Probably with one of those cheap and inaccurate fingerprint scanners already found on laptops.

  • Reply 13 of 27
    dnd0psdnd0ps Posts: 253member


    they can remove the physical home button, and maybe replace it with a touch sensitive icon at the same location.

  • Reply 14 of 27

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Andysol View Post





    I agree. Also, with the fast of recognition, mobile payments will be a breeze- faster than opening your wallet.



     


     


    Absolutely. Combined with NFC, an iPhone could be in range of a payment point and automatically popup a confirmation prompt on the screen, which you only need to tap with your unique fingerprint. Would add some needed security to the simple 'wave the phone at the reader' which any thief could do.

  • Reply 15 of 27

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dnd0ps View Post


    they can remove the physical home button, and maybe replace it with a touch sensitive icon at the same location.



     


    Heavens-to-betsy... that sounds dangerously like an Android virtual home button! image  (But waaaaay more secure!)

  • Reply 16 of 27
    smiles77smiles77 Posts: 668member
    ireland wrote: »
    smiles77 wrote: »
    It just makes sense that when you swipe across the screen to unlock that it would read your fingerprint as the security code. "It just works".

    Why the need to swipe?

    Well, right now you always swipe to unlock your phone. If you have a security code activated you then have to type in your passcode. With the sensor embedded in the display you can put those in one step -- just swiping to unlock. Free security with no added hassle.

    If you're asking why you have to swipe to unlock in the first place it's so you don't accidentally turn on your iOS device and butt-call or activate other actions without ensuring that it's intentional user-directed activity occurring.
  • Reply 17 of 27
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:



    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Apple's sensor patent details a technology that can not only fit into a mobile device like an iPhone, but can "read" biometric characteristics of a finger from distances larger than existing methods afford. 



     


    This patent is not about finger sensing distance.


     


    The extra distance it refers to, is for internal signals from the touch sensor to the touch controller circuit:


     


    "it is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a finger sensor that can generate a reduced noise finger measurement from a finger, for example, positioned in a finger sensing area at a relatively large distance from the finger sensing integrated circuit."


     


    The whole patent is about various ways of lessening interference on the sensor signal lines.


     


    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Chandra69 View Post


    Can display context menus when finger hovers  on some item on the screen. :)


    This is going to be great.


     


    Who needs a stylus?image



     


    This particular patent is not about hovering.


     


    However, Samsung has hovering on their Note (with pen) and GS4 (with finger).   It's used for previews or commands without touching the screen.  IIRC, one example in their ads was about a person with sauce or lotion on their fingers, using air swipes instead of having to actually touch and mess up their screen.

  • Reply 18 of 27
    timbittimbit Posts: 331member
    I highly doubt that the fingerprint reader would be under a mechanical button. Too much movement that could cause wires to loosen or wear down.
    And the patent is for a reader under an LCD screen.... The home button doesn't have a screen on it.
    It would make more sense to have the sensor either directly on the screen itself, or just to the left or right of the home screen in the bezel area.
    Only a few months left till we find out!
  • Reply 19 of 27
    command_fcommand_f Posts: 247member
    This patent says that you can put the sensor under the display, not that you have to. I still think putting it under the home button makes more sense: the Slide to Unlock gesture is there to ensure the phone quickly goes back to power-saving if the home button has been accidentally pressed. If the button includes a fingerprint sensor so the system knows the owner's finger is on the button, there's no need for the swipe at all.

    This means that the entire authentication goes from press the button - swipe - type passcode to just press the button! I really hope it does make it to the next iPhone because I see it as a major ergonomic improvement: better protection of data, identity, phone bill AND far quicker access to these for the legitimate owner. It's all very it-just-works Apple-style and would be a better new-for-this-year flagship feature than, for example, some very dodgy maps.

    Incidentally, I don't expect to see the home button disappear. A separate button gives advantages of simplicity and easy (non-modal) override of whatever the current app is doing. It allows interaction with iOS regardless of what's on-screen. A moving button, as opposed to a small touch sensor or whatever has other benefits too though these are perhaps more debatable.
  • Reply 20 of 27


    Whenever you hit a purchase or buy button, the iPhone will identify it as definitely you. This is better than having the scanner in the home button (unless the home button becomes a touch screen or part of the screen itself). It would be great if one day we could replace our drivers license, passport and all our cards with our phone. I believe this technology brings that day a lot closer.


     


    "Can't innovate my ass!!"

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