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Hands On with Qualcomm's Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanner

Article Comments  5  

Mar 2, 2015, 8:47 AM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

Qualcomm has invented an entirely new fingerprint-scanning technology to secure your phone, and it's really quite interesting. Now that your phone is your wallet, this is a crucial technology. We met with them to discuss the details, and tried a demo. Read on for what we learned.

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Qualcomm is a company that does a ton of R&D, and they're quite interested in security these days, especially as it became clear that mobile payments were going to take off. In looking at biometrics, they invented an entirely new type of fingerprint scanner that uses ultrasound to map your fingerprint in 3D. It's a bit like sonar, so much so that it even works better when your fingers are wet (though dry is certainly fine, too.)

Qualcomm invented and patented the technology, which consists of a sensor and a processing chip. Qualcomm makes the processing chip themselves (it's separate from the main Snapdragon processor, for now.) They don't make sensors, so they've licensed that part out to other companies to make. In a complete solution, it also uses the security features present in all Snapdragon chips for encryption, etc.

Sense ID  

The company claims faster speed and better security due to greater detail. In the demos we tried, these advantages were clear. It recognized a valid fingerprint noticeably faster than an iPhone. The demo included a direct visual output of what the sensor "sees", where you could clearly see individual pores within a fingerprint. It's impressive.

That was with an exposed sensor, however. When put behind glass or metal, the detail is reduced, especially to a human eye looking at the raw output. You can still see a clear fingerprint, but not the pores, etc. But Qualcomm claims that its advanced processing sees what humans can't in that situation.

Qualcomm expects this tech to reach phones before the end of 2015. With Google buying Softcard and revving up Google Wallet again, expect to see a lot more phones with fingerprint readers like this in the coming months and years.

About the author, Rich Brome:

Editor in Chief Rich became fascinated with cell phones in 1999, creating mobile web sites for phones with tiny black-and-white displays and obsessing over new phone models. Realizing a need for better info about phones, he started Phone Scoop in 2001, and has been helming the site ever since. Rich has spent two decades researching and covering every detail of the phone industry, traveling the world to tour factories, interview CEOs, and get every last spec and photo Phone Scoop readers have come to expect. As an industry veteran, Rich is a respected voice on phone technology of the past, present, and future.


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Mar 2, 2015, 12:57 PM

Fingerprint Scanning

This technology would be nice to have if it wasn't for the fact that all this information you share with your smartphone goes to an NSA server in Utah. People are voluntarily sharing private info with their smartphone not realizing it's all being sent off elsewhere. What better way to set up a spy state than to do it through a neat, trendy, and handy device that everybody worships? The government wants to get everybody's fingerprint.....how can they do it? Twenty years ago it would have required inking every person's fingers at the police station; nobody would have accepted that. Now everybody is volunteering to do it via their "cool" smartphone. So keep sharing your info (fingerprints, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) but it's going to come b...
Doubt it. My cell phone is on an account under my dad's name with 8 other people. So if we all had our fingerprints registered on our phones then they would have 9 different peoples fingerprints showing under one name.

Plus, why does Samsung only...

Mar 2, 2015, 6:42 PM

all the same

alll new phone are starting to have a finger print scanner frist iphone then samsung know these guys WAAAT 🤣
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