Synaptics buys Samsung partner Validity to take on Apple's AuthenTec Touch ID feature

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Touchpad vendor Synaptics has announced plans to acquire Validity Sensors, a primary remaining fingerprint sensor vendor following Apple's acquisition of AuthenTec last year, and a reported supplier involved in Samsung's delayed efforts to match the iPhone's Touch ID fingerprint sensing technology.

iPhone 5s puts the spotlight on biometrics

In September, Validity's chief technology officer Sebastien Taveau was cited by Business Insider in a piece that noted Apple had been "filing patents on biometric security since at least 2009." Taveau said that "Apple has been working on it for more than two years and they have extremely competent engineers."

Apple was also said to have worked with Australian component firm Microlatch. The company's managing director and founder Chris Burke was cited as saying Apple had approached the company at least two years ago in an effort to investigate fingerprint technology and users' reactions to it.

While some Android vendors had added fingerprint sensors to their phones, including Motorola and Fujitsu, the feature wasn't being widely used and wasn't working reliably enough for Motorola to continue supporting it.

But now that Apple has popularized the technology on its iOS flagship, Synaptics sees its acquisition of Validity as a way "to strengthen its portfolio of touch-based technologies with the diversification into fingerprint-sensing capabilities."

Synaptics is currently a leading supplier of PC touchpads, including Apple among its customers; it also supplies the chips that power most smartphone touch screens apart from Apple's. The sharp decline in PC growth at the hands of Apple's iPad and other mobile devices that have shifted from a pointer-based interface to multitouch appears to be a contributing factor in the company's efforts to diversify its offerings via Validity.

Apple takes AuthenTec out of reach

AuthenTec had been supplying most of the world's capacitative fingerprint sensors, which have been embedded in Windows notebooks and tablets for many years. However, After Apple acquired the firm for $356 million in July 2012, it stopped selling the sensors to third parties.

Biometric Update cited reports last year describing those customers as being "in a state of panic" as they tried to find alternative suppliers.

Samsung was particularly affected, as it used AuthenTec sensors in its notebooks and relied on the company's VPN software for its Android phones. Apple subsequently sold AuthenTec's Embedded Security Solutions division to Inside Secure. That left Samsung looking for a replacement fingerprint sensor vendor.

Alternative mobile sensors are not as advanced

Samsung was reported to be working with Validity in an effort to put a fingerprint sensor in its Note 3 phablet over the summer.

The company's efforts to support the sensor were leaked in a report identifying a "FingerprintService.apk" Android app associated with the new device, but the Note 3 was announced without the feature the week before Apple debuted its iPhone 5s with Touch ID, based on the AuthenTec acquisition.



Both Apple and Samsung were said to have run into severe production problems in developing a fingerprint sensor suitable for use on a mobile device, but Apple launched the feature in volume and Samsung hasn't at all. Samsung executives have since backpedaled on their support of fingerprint login, describing it as simply a technology the company is watching to see how it unfolds. "We never officially admitted that Samsung was weighing the fingerprint system" - Samsung

"We never officially admitted that Samsung was weighing the fingerprint system," a Samsung official was cited by the Korean Herald as saying. "We are not yet developing the technology."

Part of Samsung's problem is that there are few suppliers with suitable technology. Korea's Crucialtec was described by that same report as being more than a year behind AuthenTec in its fingerprint scanning technology. That firm currently supplies a sensor for Pantech phones, but uses a swipe-scan system rather than the nearly instantaneous, flat pad sensor Apple is using in its iPhone 5s.

Describing the disadvantages of swipe sensors, Nelly Porter, Microsoft's head of Windows Security told CITEWorld , "they're not intuitive. You have to swipe your finger, not too fast and not too slow and not over to the left and not over to the right but just in the right place so the sensor can compose the stripe image. That's users having to work for the technology, not having the technology work or them."

Nobody wanted it until Apple delivered it

While there are a variety of companies that build fingerprint sensors, few companies have the expertise that AuthenTec had as the world's leading producer of the sensors and the identity management behind them, and most are inferior swipe scan systems or use simpler optical or thermal sensing.

Developing and selling the advanced technology required for a reliable, fast sensor is expensive; in an SEC filing prior to Apple's acquisition, AuthenTec noted that it had developed new fingerprint technology and had attempted to shop it around to "several leading consumer electronics companies."

However, none of the companies AuthenTec approached expressed an interest in using the technology apart from Apple, which began a conversation with the firm in late 2011. AuthenTec stated that the main reason Apple was the only interested party appears to have been the cost involved.

Fraught with security risks

Incorporating fingerprint authentication is more complicated than simply including a sensor. Apple outlined how its own Touch ID feature was deeply integrated with the Secure Enclave Processor architecture within its new A7 Application Processor, which securely stores print data in a way that is inaccessible from apps, and even from the rest of the system, a protection designed to maintain security even if the operating system were compromised via a vulnerability.

AuthenTec was fully aware of the risks involved with poorly integrated fingerprint solutions. In 2010, the firm had itself acquired UPEK, another significant fingerprint technology vendor. Two years later, UPEK's product to log into Windows laptops was revealed to store users' Windows login passwords insecurely in the Registry, allowing a hacker with physical access to easily retrieve passwords to all accounts that had enabled fingerprint login.

AuthenTec stopped selling the software, but it was installed on a wide range of Windows laptops, including models from Acer, Asus, Compal, Dell, Gateway, Lenovo, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.



In order to match Apple's Touch ID security, Android vendors like Samsung will also need to overhaul the hardware and software security of their devices. Samsung is already struggling to secure Android with its "Knox" solution (above) for adding secure app sandboxing to a few specific Galaxy models, as well as a third party "LoJack" subscription service designed to work similar to Apple's new Activation Lock in iOS 7.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 30
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,698member
    And as it has always been, the PC industry in general has zero clue how to use current tech and design appropriate software that hides the the from the user.

    Then comes Apple (a.k.a. Samsung's R&D Department) to once again show how stupid everyone else is and does it right. Now "suddenly" everyone wants to copy.. uhm.. I mean "innovate" better than Apple.

    Cue the iHaters to spin this as "but..but.. Apple didn't invent fingerprints".
  • Reply 2 of 30
    Pay no attention to the man behind the article; Eric Schmidt says Android is safer than iPhones.
  • Reply 3 of 30
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,698member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    Pay no attention to the man behind the article; Eric Schmidt says Android is safer than iPhones.



    Careful there... the AI mods may delete this post too.  They seem to have been pandering the the AI fandroids lately.

  • Reply 4 of 30
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    If a comparison of a Synaptic trackpad/drivers performance and usability to Apple's trackpad/drivers are anything to go by Apple has nothing to worry about.
  • Reply 5 of 30
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    sflocal wrote: »
    And as it has always been, the PC industry in general has zero clue how to use current tech and design appropriate software that hides the the from the user.

    Then comes Apple (a.k.a. Samsung's R&D Department) to once again show how stupid everyone else is and does it right. Now "suddenly" everyone wants to copy.. uhm.. I mean "innovate" better than Apple.

    Cue the iHaters to spin this as "but..but.. Apple didn't invent fingerprints".


    Psychologically it's pretty amazing that so much in the consumer tech industry depends on whether Apple can work out all the kinks in the logistics. Sure, fingerprint scanners existed, touchscreens existed, notebooks existed, and on and on, but it's not until Apple figures out what parts are needed and what parts aren't need to make a product that is usable and fun does anything ever seem to change. I present two decades of Windows tablets are my first evidence for the jury.
  • Reply 6 of 30
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,690member

    Fandroids Sept 2013: Touch ID is such a useless gimmick! And besides, Apple wasn't first! Apple didn't invent fingerprinting! There were a few devices that had fingerprint sensors on them before! Nevermind that they were all bloody useless and did not work properly! I don't want the NSA owning my fingerprints! Apple users are such sheep, but one billion broke ass mofo's buying shitty Android phones are definitely not sheep!

     

    Fandroids 2014: My new Samsung Galaxy 5 has this new ingenious feature, called Fingerprint ID! It is so damn cool! It may not work as well or as quickly as the Apple version yet, and it is not as secure, but that has already been taken care of, it'll be fixed in Kit Kat version number 4.5.001.78.2! Apple doesn't have a copyright on fingerprints! Damn iSheep!

  • Reply 7 of 30
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,094member
    Touchpad vendor Synaptics has announced plans to acquire Validity Sensors, a primary remaining fingerprint sensor vendor following Apple's acquisition of AuthenTec last year...

    While there are a variety of companies that build fingerprint sensors, few companies have the expertise that AuthenTec had as the world's leading producer of the sensors and the identity management behind them, and most are inferior swipe scan systems or use simpler optical or thermal sensing.

    I believe Validity's newer sensors are touch rather than swipe, just like Apple's (Authentec's) TouchID. They even make use of the same or at least similar "subdermal scanning".
    http://www.citeworld.com/security/22399/iphone-fingerprint-scanner-better-biometrics

    IMO Apple users will benefit from faster 3rd party adoption of biometric authentication as a secure log-in and/or ID verification if a few million Android/Windows devices include Synaptic's (Validity) fingerprint touch sensors.
  • Reply 8 of 30
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,296member

    A 64 bit CPU in a cellphone is a marketing gimmick... oh wait.

     

    Touch ID is easily defeated. A 2 year old could do it. LOL.  It's a gimmick... oh wait.

  • Reply 9 of 30
    Even Samsung's vendors are copying Apple...
  • Reply 10 of 30
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by akqies View Post





    Psychologically it's pretty amazing that so much in the consumer tech industry depends on whether Apple can work out all the kinks in the logistics. Sure, fingerprint scanners existed, touchscreens existed, notebooks existed, and on and on, but it's not until Apple figures out what parts are needed and what parts aren't need to make a product that is usable and fun does anything ever seem to change. I present two decades of Windows tablets are my first evidence for the jury.

     

    Not that surprising I think. there has always been very few companies that can really innovate in many fields. In the past that was Sony, Phillips, Braun. The others either copy or are in very narrow fields (logitech), or worse, one pony tricks like blackberry.

     

    Disruptive innovation is rare, so what you get is usually either constant refinement of existing solutions (leica) that most companies on top of the art can do, or integration in novel ways. For the latter you need to master all components, not to be a simple integrator.

     

    Microsoft was really the only one left that could have done it, but this is a company run by accountants and marketers, even the  noun innovation is unknown to them.

     

    Cars is perhaps the only field where there was many innovators, I think, and that is hardly true today.

  • Reply 11 of 30
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,715member
    Where would Sammy stick a sensor? I don't think there's enough room with the small non screen surface. Perhaps they will make an attachment or release the Samsung Galaxy S 5 Fingerprint as another model that's an inch longer to accommodate the sensor.
  • Reply 12 of 30
    Originally Posted by jungmark View Post

    Where would Sammy stick a sensor?

     

    I can think of a few places they can stick it.

  • Reply 13 of 30
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,690member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jungmark View Post



    Where would Sammy stick a sensor? I don't think there's enough room with the small non screen surface. Perhaps they will make an attachment or release the Samsung Galaxy S 5 Fingerprint as another model that's an inch longer to accommodate the sensor.

    There's always the back of the phone, like the great implementation used by the Motorola Atrix.

  • Reply 14 of 30
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,175member

    With how ridiculously big Samsung phones have become, they will probably take it a step further and offer a palm print sensor. 

  • Reply 15 of 30
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,656member

    First most of you kill me with your comments.

     

    Second I had the Motorola phone with the finger print ID on it, I like the idea lots since it allows you the unlock the phone quickly especially while driving since you could not use voice command without the phone unlocked. With that said, it sucked, it did not work all the time, no rhyme of reason to why it worked some times and not others. I suspect that Android was too busy doing some sort of background task to realize I was tying to unlock the phone. Some time it took one quick swipe of your finger and you were set to go. Most time it would take multiply swipe and some time it just would refuse to recognize my finger. 

     

    This is the thing most people fail to understand, yeah others have created or use these new technologies and Finger print ID is again old, and most people have given up on it since it just does not work well or created other issues. Apple finds solutions to these problem and makes it work.

  • Reply 16 of 30
    Certainly seems as though Samsung is proceeding smoothly in the latest drive by knock off.

    "Originally, Samsung Electronics planned to adopt the fingerprint recognition function at the same time as the launch of the Galaxy Note 3. But as the US Validity Chip, the developer of the fingerprint recognition sensor, failed to pass the reliability test, this function was eliminated at the last minute."
  • Reply 17 of 30
    akqiesakqies Posts: 768member
    maestro64 wrote: »
    This is the thing most people fail to understand, yeah others have created or use these new technologies and Finger print ID is again old, and most people have given up on it since it just does not work well or created other issues. Apple finds solutions to these problem and makes it work.

    They saw the they needed to have more than just a fingerprint scanner but also add HW to their A7 chip, which may have required it to be 64-bit do to cryptographic additions to ARMv8 and the new ISA, in order to make this work the way they wanted. Who else can do this? Well, I guess Qualcomm can make this a part of their chip tech or perhaps it could be a separate chip on the MoBo.
  • Reply 18 of 30
    sflocal wrote: »

    Careful there... the AI mods may delete this post too.  They seem to have been pandering the the AI fandroids lately.

    Except I can provide a citation that Schmidt said that.
  • Reply 19 of 30
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,486member

    Nobody wanted it until Apple delivered it and did it right.

     

    Apple may have several authentication patents pending by now, but Samsung knows a very easy, profitable way around such "barriers".

     

    Go do yer thing, Slimeslug!

  • Reply 20 of 30
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post



    IMO Apple users will benefit from faster 3rd party adoption of biometric authentication as a secure log-in and/or ID verification if a few million Android/Windows devices include Synaptic's (Validity) fingerprint touch sensors.

     

    Validity makes pad sensors, as does whomever the supplier is behind the rumored new HTC One Max phone with one (although its apparently on the back of the phone). Whether they work the same remains to be seen, because they don’t currently ship. 

     

    Also, how exactly will "3rd party adoption of biometric authentication" occur when Apple expressly does not allow "3rd party adoption of biometric authentication"? 

     

    And how will Android and WP devices appearing with a Touch ID-like sensor do anything but highlight how much better Apple’s implementation is? If you’re imagining that some other company will better integrate fingerprint sensors than Apple, why haven’t any of the Android licensees also done a better job with touch screen latency, with processor performance and/or efficiency, with battery consumption and size, with RAM usage and/or efficiency, with multiple core support, with GPU performance and gaming exclusives, with interface lag, with wireless video distribution, with camera and/or flash, with gyro/motion sensor support, or really with any feature on Apple’s latest flagship?

     

    I keep remembering how Android phones on Verizon had this massive ~2 year lead on very fast LTE data service, a feature of clear value and easy to demonstrate utility, and how as soon as iPhone 5 appeared Apple now sells the most LTE devices on Verizon...  and worldwide. And even before the 5 shipped, Apple was still outselling all Android LTE phones combined with a CDMA 3G iPhone on Verizon, the worlds slowest 3G network-- against a variety of 4G LTE phones. 

     

    If you think some new feature will push Android or WP back into competition against the iPhone, ask yourself: is it more impressive and useful than the >10X improvement in data service LTE offered? If not, now it is going to move the needle?

     

    And then remind yourself about how well Google’s implementation and rollout of NFC went. Or Adobe Flash. Or any other differentiating feature that was supposed to be better than iOS.  

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