With last year’s acquisition of Validity Sensors, Synaptics gained a world-class team of engineers and business experts in the fast-growing world of biometrics and fingerprint authentication. Among them is Sebastien Taveau, a 20+ year tech industry veteran and a well-known thought leader on the topic of mobile authentication, payments and security.
We are very excited to have Sebastien join the team here at Synaptics, and we recently caught up with him to learn a bit more about his new role at Synaptics and his vision for how biometrics technology will impact our lives in the future.
Here’s some of what he had to say…
1. What is your role at Synaptics?
I am the chief evangelist for Synaptics’ newly established Biometrics Product Division (BPD). If you’re wondering what that actually means – it means that I help to bridge the technology and products developed within Synaptics BPD to real-world uses cases. I help explain, in everyday terms, how biometrics and fingerprint ID technology will impact our day-to-day lives and society as a whole. I do this through speaking engagements, interviews and more. It’s also my job to maintain a deep understanding of the biometrics industry and its progression, and regularly feed this knowledge back into the BPD.
2. Can you give us an update on Synaptics’ integration of Validity?
Since the acquisition of Validity, Synaptics has seamlessly integrated Validity’s engineering team to accelerate innovation for our line of Natural ID fingerprint sensors. The team continues to seek ways to push the envelope for fingerprint ID. For example, the Holy Grail in this market is to capture the fingerprint sensor beneath the active display or “glass” in device touchscreens vs. a discrete button. This has never been done before, but once it’s achieved, fingerprint ID will be that much more powerful and seamless for the user. With Validity as the expert in fingerprint ID and Synaptics as the expert in touchscreens, it’s the perfect coupling to achieve this major next step in mobile authentication.
3. What progress do you see happening in the biometrics industry in the next year?
This year will be big for kicking off the ascent of biometrics into the mainstream. We’re seeing a huge amount of interest from some of the world’s biggest brands. For example, take the FIDO Alliance, of which Synaptics is a founding member. The goal of the FIDO Alliance is to establish open, scalable and interoperable standards for mobile online authentication. In the one year since FIDO was established we’ve seen membership skyrocket from six members in 2013 to more than 100 members in 2014, including brands like MasterCard, RSA and Bank of America. We’ll continue to see increased standardization and regulation, as well as increased access to open APIs – measures that will continue to fuel innovation and exciting new biometric use cases in the months to come.
4. Beyond unlocking phones, how will fingerprint ID technology impact lives in the future?
In the future, fingerprint ID will become more invisible, but it will be there in the background, connecting us to our surroundings in ways we haven’t even imagined yet, especially as more of the environment around us becomes interconnected through sensors, etc. The online experience will become hyper customized – an experience I refer to as “the Internet of me.” While active authentication will still be necessary for things like mobile commerce transactions, it’s the emergence of passive (i.e. invisible) authentication where things really start to look exciting! For example, imagine renting a car and as you touch the door, the seat, in-cabin temperature, even the radio is automatically set to your desired preferences before you get inside. Connecting to your smartphone, your itinerary is then automatically uploaded to the navigation system – this is hyper customization of the connected experience; this is the Internet of me.
5. So tell us, can someone chop off our finger to gain access to our data?
This is a funny question that I hear all the time. I recently wrote a blog post that provides an in-depth answer, but the short answer is no. The fingerprint sensor technology is built in a way that the fingerprint image has to be taken from a live finger. As I’ve said before, if someone is compelled to chop off your finger to access your smartphone, you likely have bigger problems!
If you’re interested in catching up with Sebastien and hearing more, he’ll be sharing his thoughts at the following upcoming industry events: