Synaptics Blog

Exploring The Latest in Human Interface Technologies

Innovations in touch sensing, combined with display technologies, continue to transform the human computer interface.
Ensuring security via mobile payments
Technology is moving at an unprecedented pace. To understand why we need to improve human interface, let’s review the market dynamics that are driving the changes in our world.
Match-in-Sensor technology dramatically raises the protection level against on-device threats.

Establishing Trust with Mobile Device Biometrics

synaptics-mobile-payment-authenticationYou’re in another state attending a wedding when you realize you left the gift at home. In an effort to get a quick replacement, you stop at the local department store to get a silver chafing dish. Of course you’ve never been to this department store, you’re not in your home state, and you’re spending more than you normally would; a warning sign is alerted and your credit card is denied. It didn’t have to be this way.

Today, consumers have the convenience of creating a mobile wallet, giving them on-the-go access to their banking and financial needs. Detecting the fraudulent transaction above relies heavily on the warning signs of unusual buying patterns, but this method is imperfect, at best. This is especially true when there are dependable biometric forms of authentication – such as fingerprint sensing – built into the smartphones we carry.

Biometric authentication is the key enabler that will allow banks to transition from relying on warning signs to more reliable proof-positive user identification and authentication. As the industry’s first and only provider of fully hardware-encapsulated fingerprint sensors, Synaptics has earned a prominent position at the forefront of biometric-based data security with its match-in-sensor technology.

With the greater security of biometrics comes a heightened consumer concern for privacy, and device manufacturers play a major role in addressing the concern. First, OEMs must never store biometric images and instead use representative patterns that cannot be reverse-engineered for fraudulent purposes. In addition, ALL data in-flight (inside and outside the device) must be encrypted.

Device manufacturers are primed to lead the charge in transitioning the payment ecosystem from imperfect warning signs, to proof-positive forms of biometric authentication. It is under these same principles that successful manufacturers are already working on innovative designs that will make fingerprint sensing even more convenient and secure.

Now consider the same wedding and purchase of a silver chafing dish. If he had paid using a digital wallet application on his smartphone equipped with a fingerprint sensor, he wouldn’t have shown up to the wedding empty-handed.

Ritu Favre
Senior Vice President and General Manager of Biometrics Product Division

Not All Fingerprint Authentication is Created Equal

secure-fingerprint-authenticationThomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, is famously credited with the assertion that all men are created equal.  That time-honored position on equality, however, doesn’t necessarily apply to biometric security, because not all fingerprint authentication is created equal.

In the biometrics space, fingerprint authentication protects devices and the data they access, and ensures secure transactions.  But whereas the use of fingerprint recognition may be common in those applications, the similarities end there; the technology behind authentication varies, as do the levels of security they provide.

To fully appreciate the distinctions, let me provide a little background.

Biometric techniques for user identification enjoy the advantage of making user authentication more secure while also making the verification process more convenient by eliminating passwords.  Fingerprint sensing is by far the easiest and most cost-effective among available biometric techniques.

The simplicity and inherent certainty of fingerprint sensing have made it central to user identification and authentication in mobile devices.  Additionally, it plays an increasingly central role in point-of-sale transactions, ranging from retail and banking to facilities access.

The fundamental requirement in fingerprint sensing is making a positive match with a known representation of the user’s fingerprint.  The sensor is used initially in an “enrollment” process to store a representation of the fingerprint, which then gets used during every subsequent access and authentication attempt.  Note: In order to ensure user privacy, the best practice is to store an encrypted template of the proprietary representation of the fingerprint, and never a copy of the actual fingerprint image itself.

Common today in fingerprint authentication is Match-on-Host technology, where the fingerprint module captures the fingerprint image and sends the data for processing to the host processor or other external processor.  While popular today among many smartphone manufacturers, Match-on-Host security, even if it occurs in a trusted environment, is susceptible to malware and other attacks on the host system.  This simply isn’t on par with that of a new architecture called Match-in-Sensor technology.

Match-in-Sensor dramatically raises the protection level against on-device threats.  Through a purpose-built, fully encapsulated system-on-a-chip (SoC) architecture, Match-in-Sensor isolates fingerprint enrollment, pattern storage and biometric matching — all within the device’s fingerprint sensor.  In contrast, Match-on-Host has neither the processing power nor the memory to achieve this, so it must rely on the host (or a separate processing element) to perform the matching function.

With mobile payments depending more and more on fingerprint authentication, there’s an increasing concern among smartphone makers and their users about security risks and threats of attack.  Match-in-Sensor technology, therefore, is taking on a greater level of importance to counter those threats.

At Synaptics, we’re very proud to be the industry’s first and only provider of fully hardware-encapsulated fingerprint sensors, which allows our customers to offer significantly stronger protection in their products.  Data collected and managed by Match-in-Sensor is stored in the sensor itself – completely isolated from the host system, which is vulnerable to hackers.  Nor do the sensors store the actual fingerprint image; the sensor instead creates a template, encrypted with 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) technology, that can’t be reconstructed.  If the host system is compromised, the biometric data is still secure, as it never leaves the fingerprint sensor module.

There’s a range of applications to which Match-in-Sensor technology can provide a powerful level of protection that augments host-based security: smartphones, tablets, personal computers, computer mice and keyboards, docking stations, and automobiles, to name a few.  And with legislation underway that dictates security for electronic commerce, financial transactions and health records, the stringency enabled by Match-in-Sensor technology is imperative.

As the industry’s only provider of sensors to feature this emerging Match-in-Sensor technology, Synaptics has earned a prominent position at the forefront of biometrics-based data security. As the deployment of our new Match-in-Sensor progresses, it will become increasingly clear that, while biometric-matching techniques may seem essentially similar, not all fingerprint authentication is created equal.

Ritu Favre
Senior Vice President and General Manager of Biometrics Products Division (BPD)

Taking Touch beyond Just Touch

TouchAs one of our primary senses, touch is a natural way we interact with the world around us, including the intelligent devices we use every day. Although the first touchscreen device was conceptualized 50 years ago, smartphones have been the catalyst for rapid innovations in touch interfaces over the past five years. Looking forward, touch will become a ubiquitous human interface, expanding far beyond just smartphones, and Synaptics is leading the way.

Consumers require and expect touch experiences to perform seamlessly in every situation and every application. By combining various types of smart sensors, such as touch and biometrics, your personal device will know what you’re doing, saying, looking at, what you want and how you feel. To harness this potential, touch needs to go beyond just touch and become more intuitive, more predictive and more human.

Reaching these capabilities starts by melding a great touch experience with customer performance expectations. The touch experience needs to be prepared to handle all types of conditions. The first of variable is moisture. Smart devices must be able to work when there is wet atmosphere. Whether you’re stuck in the rain or cooling down from a run, devices need to work in every environment.

The smart device must also work when the user is wearing gloves. As was the case with moisture, wearing gloves is a situational element and the expectation is that a device should be able to detect touch through gloves whether you’re skiing the Alps or playing 18 holes at Pebble Beach.

Touch must also be intuitive enough to allow users to preview before making a selection. Not too long ago, Rick Bergman wrote about a new dimension in touch. By hovering above the screen, you should be able to preview an e-mail before it’s opened, or zoom in on pictures and maps – so that your device is anticipating your actions.

As touch becomes more ubiquitous, we’ll begin to see these new features and levels of functionality impact new vertical markets. Some example include:

  • Lifestyle: We’re already seeing how interactive maps can provide a richer shopping experience in malls and retail centers. Touch is also enabling new ways to experience life in areas such as gaming and virtual reality.
  • Fitness: Sensors are being implemented into touch enabled products that can improve fitness and skills; stats and data can be tabulated, reported and analyzed.
  • Home: Adding touch display interfaces to home appliances allows people to control their devices more easily. A perfect example of this is smart refrigerators that are intelligent enough to display healthy recipes based on the food located inside.
  • Automotive: Based on consumer expectation, cars now include multiple displays with multiple touch interfaces. The experience is amplified through the use of force and haptic feedback.
  • Wearables: Wearables is one of the fastest growing smart device segments with more than 40 million units expected to ship in 2015, and support for flexible touch/displays is critical for the this growth.

Innovations in touch sensing, combined with display technologies, continue to transform the human computer interface.  With best in class display drivers and touch sensing technologies, Synaptics is poised to extend these ideas further and create more enriched experiences.

The Human Interface Revolution

The Human Interface RevolutionTechnology is moving at an unprecedented pace, especially the technology that allows people to interact with devices such as your smartphone.

To understand why we need to improve human interface, let’s review the market dynamics that are driving the changes in our world. Today, technology advances are not in steps, but in leaps.

Remember the time it took to get from the computer to laptop? And then from mobile phones, to smart phones? Today smartphones are an extension of us. It is a control console of applications through which we manage our world.

We do more and more with these devices; and the devices are getting more and more capable.

While the benefits of these smarter devices are undeniable to businesses as well as end users, they simply cannot be attained or realized without better usability – better interface – better Human Interface

In the old days, a phone was just a phone. You pushed buttons to dial a number and you made a call. Simple.

With the smartphones, you have to unlock your device with a password, navigate your device and find the phone app. It takes a lot more effort to make a simple call.

Better human interface can make these devices more intuitive, more “usable”. The interface should be easy-to-use, enriched, and provide a near effortless user experience. We are not there yet.  There is a gap, a gap between increased functionality and ease of use of the devices. I call it the usability gap.

This usability gap is where the opportunity lies for human interface industry. And the opportunity is huge. Human interface invention and revolution are necessary to seize this huge opportunity.

The human interface revolution is about perfecting the user experience and will encompass four phases. We call these phases Interaction, Personalization, Contextual Awareness, and Omnipresence.

Let’s talk about these four phases, starting with Interaction. In this first phase, the focus was and remains on the personal device itself. The evolution began eight years ago with the introduction of smartphones, where we moved from buttons to touchscreens. Synaptics was at the forefront of this transition, providing the technology that enabled the industry’s first touchscreen phone, the LG Prada. Touchscreens were later widely popularized by the Apple iPhone 1.

Today we continue to perfect the interaction phase with advancements such as usability while wearing a glove, working with moisture on the screen, and the ability to detect pressure.

The second phase of the human interface revolution is Personalization. This phase is happening now.

The personalization phase is a focus on the user, about knowing who the user is and using this information to provide a richer and more secure experience. Biometrics is a great example of personalization. Biometrics is the science of using something unique about you — to identify you. Biometric authentication will eliminate passwords — using your fingerprint, your iris, your voice and your face, or a combination of them is simple and foolproof — and Synaptics continues to innovate in this space.

Contextual Awareness is the third phase of this revolution. It is a focus on the environment, where devices are so intelligent they use clues about your environment, your state of being, and even your emotions to anticipate your needs and actions. We are already seeing early innovation in this phase. Imagine sensors proactively advising you to avoid traffic or high pollen counts, or sensors that know if you are in distress, then contacting emergency services and family on your behalf. This is very powerful.

The fourth phase is Omnipresence. It will be the ultimate phase in the human interface revolution, where the human interface transcends the personal device.

Personal devices will shrink so much that they become practically invisible. They won’t number in the billions, but in the trillions. They won’t be carried – they will be integrated into the infrastructure. They will be all around us, and they will recognize and react to your very presence. New inventions in human interface will be needed in order to engage and interact with these devices.

We don’t know all of the details yet, but that’s the spirit and challenge of innovation. Synaptics is a company focused solely on advancing and revolutionizing the human interface. We have proven success leading the market with innovative technology. Our user experience focused approach and strong R&D positions us well to lead the revolution. That’s why we’re the #1 human interface company.

Rick Bergman, CEO, Synaptics

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp and LinkedIn.

Rick Bergman on Force Touch Technology


A new dimension in touch!

With more than 2 billion smartphone owners worldwide, it’s safe to say that most are familiar with touchscreens. Touching to select, move, swipe, and scale have become expected results when interfacing with today’s smart devices. Today’s touchscreen technology is so intelligent that the user can perform touch while wearing a glove, when there is moisture on the screen, and even just hover over the screen without physically touching it. Just when you thought we had already perfected touchscreen technology, a new dimension was added.

In 2013, Synaptics pioneered this new dimension with our ForcePad™ technology. ForcePad detects the amount of pressure that the user’s finger(s) exert on the touch surface, delivers responsive feedback and added a new way of control and usability for users. By varying the amount of pressure applied, users can now control the speed of a gesture operation and continue the motion after the gesture stops. For example, when the user wants to scroll, they can initiate a scroll gesture and then the harder the user presses the faster they scroll, or if they use lighter pressure they can slowly but precisely review content. Pretty cool right?

The fact is that this technology is already starting to gain traction and buzz amongst key OEMs. Our ForcePad press technology has already been shipping with industry leading products, including HP’s flagship Elitebook Folio 1020, and our second generation ForcePad products are currently sampling.

We’ve also seen similar technology recently demonstrated in a major influencer’s new smartwatch and shipping on their latest laptop. There is no doubt in my mind that their adoption of force touch technology will accelerate its proliferation in more and more smart devices.

It really comes down to delivering more ease of use and an intuitive user experience. I’m proud that Synaptics brought to market another industry first with ForcePad technology. In keeping with our vision to lead the human interface revolution, we will continue to innovate and bring new solutions to our customers.

Rick Bergman, CEO, Synaptics

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp and LinkedIn.

Rick Bergman Shares Perspective on the Biometrics Ecosystem

Biometrics Ecosystem
There’s no question that fingerprint ID technology is proliferating quickly throughout the mobile sector. IHS research suggests that the number of fingerprint sensor-enabled devices will increase from 317 million units in 2014 to 1.4 billion by 2020, and we’ll only continue to see an explosion in the demand for current and future human interface technologies.

With the help of major OEMs such as Apple, Samsung and HTC, today’s consumers are increasingly amenable to using biometrics on their mobile devices to secure data and authorize payments. End users are moving away from passwords to a more secure and human experience – fingerprint identification.

Rapid adoption of biometric authentication relies on more than just proliferation of fingerprint sensors in devices. It relies on an entire ecosystem coming together to provide a complete solution. Thought leaders in silicon development, banking and payment, operating systems, and industry standards compliance, must work together to build reliable security utilities across multiple platforms.

As fingerprint ID continues to dominate flagship mobile devices, adoption of secure online payment authentication applications such as Google Wallet and Apple Pay is also creating demand in new markets. To capitalize on this market opportunity, low- to mid-tier smartphone manufacturers are now looking into implementing the same type of fingerprint ID solutions typically found in tier-one devices, and will likely drive the adoption rate to new heights. Other growth areas for secure online payments are emerging in traditional peripherals such as keyboards and mice.

As a founding member of the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance, Synaptics recognized the need for collaboration from the beginning, but it’s the effort across partners such as PayPal, Nok Nok Labs, Microsoft, Visa and Google, that is driving simpler, stronger authentication and creating the end-to-end biometric solutions our end-users demand. While we continue to build on these partnerships, a flourishing ecosystem requires growth through a standardized alliance.

Enabling fully customizable solutions through open, scalable and interoperable mechanisms is an important first step in building the ecosystem. Yet, continued support from our partners and growth in the ecosystem needs to span component manufacturers, OEMs, software providers, service providers and end-user confidence. Ultimately this will help boost demand in new market segments and drive the future of biometric technology.

It’s exciting to think about all the different use cases for biometrics, and we envision a future where passwords are obsolete.

Rick Bergman, CEO, Synaptics

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

Synaptics to Introduce New Technology at GDC, Aims to Impact the Future of Gaming

gaming 3Here at Synaptics, we’ve established ourselves as a visionary authority leading the human interface revolution. We have established market leadership for touch and biometrics ID in smartphones, tablets and notebook markets. We are now making an entrance into the gaming and automotive spaces.

Next week, the gaming industry will be on the forefront of Synaptics’ mind, as one of the biggest video game industry events, the Game Developers Conference (GDC), takes over San Francisco. In fact, our vice president of product marketing, Godfrey Cheng, will be in attendance to discuss how Synaptics is making its way into the gaming industry and how the various technologies we have to offer can enhance the gaming experience.

On the surface, finding value in biometrics for gaming may be difficult. But there is tremendous potential and importance to gamers when discussing fingerprint-sensing and eye-scanning technology and how it can help enhance the gaming experience.

Fingerprint ID technology can provide an easy one-touch or one-scan solution to authentication enabling gamers to quickly and seamlessly begin playing their favorite MMO or RPG games. As digital games rise in popularity, gamers expect instant and convenient transaction methods; however, security is of utmost importance and having stored credit card information can be worrisome, especially for those who have children that play games on the same account and who may not hesitate to make purchases. With one swift touch of the mouse gamers will no longer have to worry about potential mysterious purchases on their account or levels being completed without their knowledge.

Further, there’s the efficiency factor: The gamer mentality begs for the easiest way to do things. Smart mice and space bars with fingerprint solutions can reduce click and tap time, improving the speed at which a gamer can operate and giving them the edge every gamer craves.

For many, gaming is a competitive sport for which reliable identification methods are a necessity. Keeping the proper accounts activated and gaining a competitive edge are of utmost importance.

The keyboard, mouse, controller and headset are the tools of today’s gamers. Advancements in their core functionality, look and feel have been plentiful over the years, but what about new functionality? The next five years will see a wave of new functionality and new tools flooding the gaming marketplace.

With Synaptics touch-sensitive interface implementations such as ForcePad™, Natural ID™, and gaze tracking, we’re prepared to push ahead with a product portfolio promoting a secure gaming experience, efficiency, and competition among hardcore gamers.

To learn more about Synaptics’ entrance into gaming, as well as a perspective on the future of security technology in the industry, stop by to see Godfrey speak at GDC. He will be speaking in Room 2024 in the West Hall of the Moscone Center, next Thursday, March 5th from 2-2:30 pm PST. We hope to see you there!

For regular Synaptics updates and more from GDC, follow us on Twitter @Synaptics!

And the Winner is…

Everybody loves winning something – be it first place in the science fair or Best Picture at the Oscars. Awards give us a sense of validation for the hours upon hours of hard work that goes into creating something special, which is why we at Synaptics are pleased to even be considered for a handful of awards in 2014-15.

Starting off on a high note, Synaptics received GOLD in the 2014 Best in Biz awards for Company of the Year (Large, 1,000+ employees), and our CEO Rick Bergman received the Bronze medal for Executive of the Year (Large). For the 2014 Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) Awards, Synaptics was given the award for Favorite Analyst Semiconductor Company. We competed against a lot of outstanding companies for these awards, so we don’t take these honors lightly.


Moving on to 2015, Synaptics has been shortlisted for two awards that will be announced in the coming months. First, the Global Mobile Awards, where we are a finalist for the Mobile Connect Award for Best Authentication & Identity Solution. This is a big deal; not just for Synaptics, but for biometrics as a whole as we consider it to be the future of authentication-based security. The Global Mobile Awards are the cream of the crop for mobile awards, and we’ll find out if we take home the top prize in March at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Also in March, we’ll find out if Synaptics will take home the PaymentEye FinTech Innovation Award in the Best Mobile Wallet category. You can actually help us out with this one by voting for Synaptics here.

There’s a lot to be excited about here from the past, present, and future, but we want to take this moment to recognize all of the hard work from everyone at Synaptics that allows us to even be considered for all of these awards.

Now let’s achieve even more in 2015.

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

Is This CES or the Detroit Auto Show?

Torchio demo at CES.

Torchio demo at CES.

For any seasoned CES veteran at the show this year, one thing you probably noticed was the immense presence of automakers. Even walking into the main hall, banners from the likes of Audi and Mercedes hung in place where you might have seen Qualcomm and Intel’s flags fly in the past.

Of all of the things these automakers unveiled at CES, one thing in particular caught our eye: touch and gesture input controls for center consoles.

With that in mind, it came as no surprise that the most popular demo at the Synaptics booth was our automotive product, code-named “Torchio,” which showcased the possibility of gestural-based interaction in an automotive environment.

Torchio leverages our ForcePad™ technology to provide a fluid input method. Thanks to ForcePad’s haptic feedback, drivers have the ability to control the center console with the touch of a hand while their eyes never leave the road. It’s simple stuff, really, because the last thing drivers need on the road is a complex method of changing the AC or radio.

You can – and should – watch a demo of Torchio in action here to see how easy it is.


Tobii demo at CES.

Another hit at the Synaptics booth was an eye-tracking automotive heads-up display (HUD) prototype we’ve been working on with Tobii.

Imagine having your windshield display pertinent information wherever you look, combined with a proximity-sensing TouchPad to keep your eyes on the road. The possibilities are endless with this type of technology, and there will be much more to hear about this soon enough.

At Synaptics, we are excited to see auto OEMs integrating with the tech world. It’s also validating to see Audi and BMW, among others, display their own technologies similar to Torchio. This is the start of something big in the automotive industry.

2015 should be a wild ride.

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

Synaptics Showing Off Innovative Solutions at CES

While many opt to ring in the first week of 2015 with clubs, casinos and performances in Las Vegas, Synaptics is in town for the most exciting show of them all.

This week marks the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where all the major players in the technology industry gather every January to showcase the latest and greatest innovations. Synaptics joined the party on Sunday at CES Unveiled and has been featuring smart display, automotive, and wearable tech solutions (to name a few!) on the show floor.

Here is a look at a few cool things we’ve been demonstrating all week:

Biometrics 1

The biometrics wall in the Synaptics CES booth, displaying the fingeprint-swiping Natural ID tech, among other solutions.


The Torchio automotive touch display at the Synaptics CES booth – see a video demo below.

Large Display

The “large display” technology wall, displaying new versions of Synaptics classics like SecurePad and ForcePad.

For all the most up-to-date CES and Synaptics news, be sure to follow us on Twitter at @SynaCorp