The Fascinating Tech Behind Fingerprint Scanners

While passcodes and intricate phone patterns may be a thing of the past, new methods of recognition (like Face ID and fingerprint scanners) are becoming the norm on most cell phones. While the majority of touch technology is built onto the outside of cellphones in the form of a button, new technology is built right under the display itself.

We’ve had access to biometric recognition for a while, but the current latest and greatest sporting an in-display fingerprint sensor is the Samsung Galaxy S20. While Apple has chosen to prioritize facial recognition, many android phones are still working their way up to having an in-display fingerprint sensor.

So, what actually goes into the display to make it work? In general, a camera or other sensor is placed underneath the glass that takes a picture of your fingerprint and matches it up with data you’ve manually put into your phone. If it’s a match, then the phone will unlock.

The main issue with this, is that the area where you place your finger is usually quite small, not to mention there’s two types of scanning technology used depending on the type of phone you have. The first type, called optical scanners, shine a bright light onto your finger tip and snap a photo. The second type, called ultrasonic scanners, use sound waves to capture a 3D image of your finger tip. This same technology is used in ultrasound machines!

Optical scanning is regarded as being less secure than ultrasonic scanning, due to the use of a single camera, however it is oftentimes faster depending on the software it’s paired with. Ultrasonic scanners are more secure, and having a 3D modeled image does work better for other conditions, such as when your hands are dirty or wet.

Overall, the seamless integration of recognition technology shows how far we’ve come in such a short time frame. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the development of safe, effective authentication tech.

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Written by Emily M.

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