Qualcomm debuts second-generation ultrasonic fingerprint reader

Qualcomm next-gen 2 finger scanner.
Image: Qualcomm

On Tuesday, Qualcomm unveiled its second-generation in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader. Called the 3D Sonic Max, the extra-large sensor has the capacity to scan two separate prints at one time. Because it offers a higher degree of protection than traditional readers, Qualcomm’s new security component might be used in the construction of the next generation of iPhones.

The Benefits of Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanning

In the past, handset fingerprint scanners have used optical sensors to verify an owner’s identity. However, various cybersecurity groups have found ways to subvert the authentication process. In 2013, a German collective got past the iPhone 5’s biometric protection with some high-definition photographs and wood glue.

Conversely, Qualcomm’s fingerprint reader uses pulses of sound to capture a more tamper-resistant biometric verification image. Indeed, Samsung used the company’s first-generation ultrasonic print scanners in its Galaxy S10 and Note 10+ handsets.

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Unfortunately, the semiconductor manufacturer’s original ultrasonic scanners had one notable vulnerability. As the sensor only measured an area of 4mm by 9mm, they lacked the authentication capability of entryway fingerprint scanners. But Qualcomm made the 3D Sonic Max’s sensor 17 times the size of the prior iteration. As such, the component not only reads a more substantial portion of a user’s finger, it can accommodate a second print.

Gordon Thomas, Qualcomm’s senior director for product development, said the sensors 600 square millimeter area gives it a much higher accuracy rate.

The corporation’s new biometric mobile device reader will also offer a greater degree of convenience to consumers. Because of its wider scanning area, smartphone owners will be able to authenticate their identity even if their fingers are wet.

Usage in Next Generation Smartphones

Given their previous partnership, Samsung may use Qualcomm’s fingerprint readers in its next generation of high-end handsets. However, Mac Rumors reports that Apple is interested in utilizing ultrasonic biometric scanners in new models of the iPhone. The site notes the Cupertino, California-based corporation wants to include them in either its 2020 or 2021 models.

Apple will reportedly meet with its touchscreen supplier GIS to facilitate collaborative production next week.

In September, Bloomberg stated Apple wanted to double up on its biometric device authentication with its 2020/2021 iPhones. Currently, the electronics manufacturer’s handsets use facial-recognition software to verify their owners’ identities.

When the company rolled out its Face ID authentication in 2017, it claimed its probability of unlocking for an unauthorized user would be 1 in a million. However, in August, Tencent found a reliable but baroque method of bypassing the iPhone’s biometric scanner. The company’s data scientists discovered if someone, like James Bond or Ethan Hunt, placed a disguise on a sleeping owner’s face, the device would read them as being awake and allow access.

Besides, a Vietnamese firm found it could crack face ID on the iPhone X using a silicone mask. As Apple reportedly intends to begin releasing two new iPhones every year starting in 2021, the firm is wise to improve device security now.