Fingerprint device: The device intelligence platform | Fingerprint

The device intelligence platform | Fingerprint

Over 6,000 companies trust Fingerprint’s highly accurate, real-time device intelligence to determine the true intentions of every user — even if they’re anonymous.

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How does the fingerprint scanner work in a smartphone? In screen, side and back

Until recently, it was strange to see how someone turns on the smartphone by placing a finger on the area with the built-in scanner. The sensors were only in flagship smartphones, but they didn’t work well, as the stories about the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone tell you – to turn it on, you had to move your finger many times. Now everything has become easier, scanners are everywhere, their accuracy is close to 100%. But the question is, how do they work? Let’s figure it out.

Optical scanner

Capacitive scanner

Ultrasound Scanner

What does a fingerprint scanner do? The logical answer is that it remembers our fingerprints. It is so and not so at the same time. First, the sensor does not store photographs of your prints. Secondly, a person does not always put his finger on the scanner in the same position, and add to this a possible small cut, a weak pressure force – the sensor will definitely not recognize you.

What then scans this sensor? It looks for unique features and reference points by which it can recognize that it is you and your fingerprint. If you look closely, the papillary pattern, and this is exactly what the lines on our fingers are called, has interesting features: some of its lines branch out, others remain separate islands, and others are interrupted in an unexpected place. All this creates a drawing, special points of your prints. It is these points that the sensor looks for during scanning, their number can reach more than 70 pieces. Therefore, when setting up the scanner, it is important to put your finger on the sensor as many times as possible so that it has more specific points for analysis.

When developing smartphones that support the fingerprint unlock function, three types of sensors are used: optical, ultrasonic and capacitive. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, and they differ in the way they make an imprint: optical does it with the help of light, ultrasonic – through sound, capacitive – through electricity. Let’s talk about each of them separately.

Optical fingerprint reader

Simply put, an optical scanner is a black and white camera that takes a two-dimensional image of a fingerprint when a finger is placed on it. Typically, the optical view of the scanner is placed under the screen in a certain place, and only needs to be touched in a certain place. At the same time, it is worth considering that they are installed only on AMOLED screens – they are translucent and each of their pixel emits light when voltage is applied to it. This allows you to place not only fingerprint sensors, but also light and proximity sensors, front cameras.

The main advantage of such a sensor is that it can be placed under the screen. Its speed and quality of work will depend on the transparency of the glass and the resolution of the matrix.

Now optical scanners have become fast and accurate, they have caught up with capacitive sensors in performance, but the first developments were not very fast and stable, and this was one of the drawbacks.

Another drawback is that everything affects the stability and speed of work. It can be water, fine dirt, dust that got on the scanner and prevented you from taking a clear picture of the print.

Such a scanner is, in theory, easier to deceive than an ultrasonic or capacitive one. The fact is that it saves a two-dimensional image of the imprint, and instead of a finger, you can attach a cast or any other fake with the desired imprint. But on the other hand, thanks to the bright backlight, the scanner sees not only print patterns, but also blood pulsations. This means that the scanner will confirm that it is the finger that is being scanned.

Another drawback is that optical sensors are picky about protective films and glasses. The protection material, its thickness can also affect the quality of the scanner.

Capacitive fingerprint reader

The sensor consists of conductive plates, the size of which is smaller than the lines of the papillary pattern. Capacitors are formed in the plates, and the current charge is stored in them. When a finger touches the scanner, this charge changes, and our body conducts current through itself. At the same time, it should be taken into account that not all skin comes into contact with the sensor due to the peculiarities of the print pattern – it consists of protruding ridges and microgaps, which means that capacitors have different capacitances. When taking a picture, the scanner checks all the cells, reveals what kind of tension was in a particular area, whether the location of the depressions and ridges, where the skin was in contact with the surface, match.

The advantages of such a scanner include: inexpensive production and well-known technology; creation of a three-dimensional image during scanning; high speed of response. Also, such a scanner is difficult to deceive, it can be used even if your hands are dirty or wet.

The disadvantages include the inability to put such a scanner on the screen – the sensor itself is capacitive, and the displays in modern smartphones are exactly the same, they work from electrical impulses. Therefore, some manufacturers install sensors on the lock button or, more often, on the back of the smartphone. Such a solution is not always convenient – in order to unlock a smartphone, you must definitely pick it up or even use another activation option.

Another drawback is that the scanners themselves can be of different quality and with a different number of cells. The more cells, the higher the resolution and the faster the sensor works. But in budget devices, scanners with “low resolution” are most often used, which makes them not work as fast as they could.

Ultrasonic fingerprint scanner

This type of scanner appeared later than the others, and the first such sensor was installed only in 2019. The development was carried out by Qualcomm, and Samsung became a pioneer in installing such a sensor with its Galaxy S10. After testing the sensor on one smartphone, the company decided to add it to the rest – the next such devices were the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy S20.

Scanning a finger with such a sensor occurs using ultrasound. The technology is not new, it has been used in other industries. For example, such scanners are used to do ultrasounds in a hospital.

The basis for this scanner was a piezoelectric material that generates a charge if it is deformed, and deforms if it is subjected to an electric field. How does it work on a smartphone?

The sensor begins to vibrate at a high frequency, when voltage is applied to it, it emits sound signals at high frequencies. We do not hear this sound, but, for example, animals can hear how such a sensor works. Then the sound waves pass through the screen glass, collide with the attached finger. Here the waves will separate: a part will come back; part will go a little further and collide with the protrusions of our print and only after that will return back, and the third part of the waves will fill the empty space between the finger and the glass, and then return to the sensor. The wave comes back, hits the piezoelectric. As a result, an electric charge appears.

The advantage of such a scanner is its security. Like the capacitive sensor, it takes a three-dimensional image of the print, and does not respond to a flat image. Plus, ultrasound does not remain on the surface – it penetrates a little deeper into the finger, which means that an additional protection factor can be made so that only a real finger can be scanned, and not a dummy.

You can place such a sensor anywhere: on the side, behind, under the screen, because ultrasound passes not only through glass. And he doesn’t care if your fingers are dry or wet, there are particles of dirt on them, or they are clean.

The disadvantages include, first of all, the lack of choice – Qualcomm developed the first sensor, and at the moment it is the only one, there are no new generations yet. Also, such a sensor is slower than modern optical scanners.

Many have heard the story that such a scanner can be hacked. They talked a lot about this, citing the Galaxy S10 and Galaxy Note10 as an example, when a hydrogel film was placed between the screen and a finger, and then it was already possible to apply any finger to unlock the smartphone. Weird behavior for the sensor, but Samsung released an update that fixed this.

The sensor may be affected by protective glass and some types of films that scatter or partially dampen the sound wave.

And the last drawback of such scanners is that they can only be found in Samsung flagships, starting with the Galaxy S10 model.

It makes no sense to talk about which scanner is better and which is worse. All have their advantages and disadvantages, and one of them can be found in a very narrow flagship line from Samsung. At the same time, developers continue to improve the security system, ridding the sensors of errors in the algorithms, and each type of sensor copes with its function equally well.

Therefore, when choosing a smartphone, you should not focus too much on which scanner is installed. The main thing is that it exists and works properly. 🙂

Like – best thanks! 🙂


What other subtleties in the operation of a smartphone do you want to know?

How fingerprint scanners work

A fingerprint scanner is a type of electronic security system that uses fingerprints for biometric authentication, to provide the user with access to information or confirm any transaction.

Even in the recent past, it seemed to us that scanners were something fantastic. But the development of the engineering industry does not stand still, and today fingerprint scanners are becoming so commonplace that they are used by almost everyone. Human fingerprints are unique, so they are successfully used to identify people. It’s not just law enforcement that collects and maintains fingerprint databases. Many types of professions that require licensing or certification (such as financial advisors, stockbrokers, real estate agents, teachers, doctors/nurses, security guards, contractors, etc.) require fingerprints as a condition of employment. More and more inventions have begun to use fingerprint scanners (also called “readers” or “sensors”) as another (optional) security feature for mobile devices. Fingerprint scanners are one of the latest inventions in an ever-growing list – pin codes, pattern codes, passwords, face recognition, location, voice recognition, secure Bluetooth/NFC connection – ways to lock and unlock smartphones.

Why use a fingerprint reader?

Many use it for safety, convenience and a futuristic feel. Fingerprint scanners work by capturing the pattern on the finger. The information is then processed by the device’s patch analysis/matching software, which compares it to the list of enrolled fingerprints in the file. A successful match means that the identity has been verified, thereby granting access.

The method of capturing fingerprint data depends on the type of scanner used:

  • Optical sensor: These types of scanners basically make a photocopy of a finger. Many also illuminate the finger to provide crisp line contrast as a light-sensitive scanner (usually an image sensor or light-sensitive microchip) records the information to create a digital image. Many computer fingerprint scanners use optical sensors.
  • Capacitive Sensor: Scanners use electricity instead of light to detect fingerprint samples. When a finger rests on the touch surface, the device measures the charge; the ridges show a change in capacitance, while the valleys remain virtually unchanged. The sensor uses all this data to accurately print prints. Most smartphones with fingerprint scanners use capacitive sensors.
  • Ultrasonic Sensor: Just as bats and dolphins use echolocation to locate and identify objects, ultrasonic scanners work through sound waves. The device is designed to send ultrasonic pulses and measure the number of bounces back. The ridges and valleys of a finger pattern reflect sound differently, which is how ultrasonic scanners can create a detailed 3D fingerprint map. Ultrasonic sensors are currently being prototyped (eg by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.) and tested for use in mobile devices.

Fingerprint analysis

There are more than a hundred different characteristics by which we can identify a fingerprint pattern. The analysis of fingerprints basically comes down to plotting points where the ridges of the pattern end abruptly and develop into two branches (and a direction). Fingerprint scanners incorporate all of these data points into templates that are used whenever biometric authentication is required. More data collected helps ensure greater accuracy (and speed) when comparing large numbers of prints. Everyday fingerprint scanner maker Motorola Atrix was the first smartphone to include a fingerprint scanner, back in 2011. Since then, many other smartphones have included this feature. For example: Apple iPhone 6S, Apple iPad models, Apple iPhone 7, Samsung Galaxy S5, Huawei Honor 6X, Huawei Honor 8 PRO, OnePlus 3T, OnePlus 5 and Google Pixel. It is likely that even more mobile devices will have the function of a fingerprint scanner in the future, especially since you can already find them in many everyday objects. When it comes to PC security, there are many fingerprint scanning options that are already integrated into some laptop models. Most devices that can be purchased separately connect with a USB cable and are compatible with almost all operating systems. Some devices are closer in shape and size to USB flash drives, some USB devices already have a built-in fingerprint scanner. Now you can see biometric door locks that have fingerprint scanners built into them in addition to touch pads for manual password entry. Biometric kits for car starters create an additional layer of security for the owner. There are also safes and padlocks with fingerprint sensors. All kinds of organizations, firms, public facilities, for example, parks such as Walt Disney World, at the entrance to which these same devices are installed to prevent ticket fraud.

The use of biometrics in everyday life will grow as manufacturers develop new (and more affordable) ways to incorporate technology into today’s gadgets. For example, the Amazon Echo speaker uses voice recognition software to authenticate the user. Other speakers such as the Ultimate Ears Boom 2 and Megaboom have integrated Alexa voice recognition via firmware updates. All of these examples use biometrics in the form of voice recognition.

The topic of using fingerprints for biometric authentication is quite often discussed – humanity argues about high risks and significant benefits in equal measure. Therefore, before you start using the latest smartphone with a fingerprint scanner, you can weigh the pros and cons.

Benefits of using fingerprint scanners:

  • Quick and easy one-finger access to unlock your device.
  • Great way to identify unique people.
  • Extremely difficult to forge/duplicate (compared to identification/access cards, etc.).
  • Virtually impossible to guess/hack (compared to pins, passwords, etc.).
  • You cannot forget your fingerprint (as you could with passwords, codes, templates, access cards, etc.).

Disadvantages of using fingerprint scanners:

  • Encryption is still questionable (the security of your fingerprint data depends on the software/hardware manufacturer).
  • A defect in the finger pattern can make it difficult to successfully scan and prevent access to authorized users (even small imperfections can create difficulties)
  • Germs (do you know how many people touched a public scanner before you did)?

Manufacturers are constantly improving the quality of encryption and data protection to prevent theft or misuse of personal data.