Synaptics Blog

Exploring The Latest in Human Interface Technologies

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The time has come for Synaptics introduce an innovative architecture where both the touch controller and display driver in a device are combined and optimized in a system level solution to power what we’re calling the smart display.
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Synaptics has officially completed its acquisition of Renesas SP! The addition of RSP broadens our portfolio of products for the touchscreen market and accelerates our product roadmap for touch and display driver integration (TDDI), a game-changing integration solution.
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We've been moving rapidly since reaching our first billion units sold in 2011. Now, less than three years later, we've delivered the next billion. Synaptics has its sights set on growing even more and reaching the next billion-device milestone even faster!
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Introducing Smart Displays Powered by Synaptics

We’ve talked several times on this blog about how the touchscreen plays such an influential role in the user experience and how the choice of its design can be a determining factor in a product’s ultimate success. Now the time has finally come to introduce an innovative architecture where, for the first time, both the touch controller and display driver are combined and optimized in a system level solution to power what we’re calling the smart display. Imagine a display with not only the added intelligence of a microprocessor, but also better performance and a thinner design.

Creating a touchscreen has historically been accomplished by layering two distinct functions – touch and display – each controlled separately and autonomously. Synaptics touch and display driver integration (TDDI) inaugurates a new approach by combining the touch controller and display driver into a single-chip solution.

With TDDI, it’s possible to synchronize touch sensing so that it occurs when the display driver is inactive, virtually eliminating display noise and improving capacitive sensing performance. Synaptics TDsync™ technology takes it a step further by avoiding other sources of noise too.

With display integration, OEMs source touch and display as a single component from a single vendor, simplifying their supply chain and speeding problem resolution. And with fewer components to integrate, products can be assembled faster, with greater yield and lower cost.

The Synaptics ClearPad® Series 4 family is the first of many offerings from Synaptics that will power smart displays of the future. There’s plenty more to come, but we couldn’t wait to get the word out right away.

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

Synaptics Completes the Acquisition of Renesas SP Drivers

Renesas logoCapacitive touchscreen technology has come a long way since it revolutionized smartphones and tablets. Because the market for these devices is fiercely competitive, OEMs are constantly challenged to design products with increasingly intelligent displays.

Back in June we announced our intent to acquire Renesas SP Drivers (RSP), a premier supplier of small- and medium-sized Display Driver ICs (DDICs) for smartphones and tablets to help meet this challenge. We can now happily say that the acquisition has been completed.

The addition of RSP broadens our portfolio of products for the touchscreen market, increasing our addressable market by 1.5 times. It also accelerates our product roadmap for touch and display driver integration (TDDI), a game-changing integration solution.

Integrating touch control into the display driver adds processing capability, creating an intelligent system level solution. And TDDI is just the first of many smart display offerings that will allow us to improve the way users interact with their devices.

We continue to evolve as a company, and this acquisition marks the start of a new era – one in which smart displays change the way we shop, make payments and communicate with the world. We can’t wait to show you what we have in store, so stay tuned because there’s more to come here soon.

For more information, visit the press release here.

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

Alibaba Group and Alipay Help Put FIDO on Fast Track to Adoption

We’ve discussed our membership in the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) Alliance before. Don’t remember? Here’s a refresher: The FIDO Alliance aims to revolutionize online authentication by developing standards-based specifications for simpler, stronger authentication that define an open, scalable, interoperable set of mechanisms that reduce reliance on passwords.

Or, in layman’s terms, FIDO members share technology and collaborate to deliver a universal authentication standard that will improve security and ease of use for consumers.

As the world continues to move away from easily hackable, hard-to-remember passwords and towards biometric solutions like fingerprint scanning and facial recognition, it needs a strong set of standards to guide the tech industry and ensure the most secure solutions possible.

So, as a proud member of the FIDO Alliance, Synaptics hopes to use Natural ID™ fingerprint authentication (most commonly known for its Samsung Galaxy S5 implementation) solutions to help make an impact in the war against passwords.

With the addition of China-based Alibaba Group to the FIDO Alliance this week, our goal of escalating the global adoption of fingerprint authentication becomes more and more attainable. The online and mobile commerce company has hundreds of millions of users who need a secure, private FIDO authentication model to protect their personal information.

Alibaba Group will become one of the first to deploy FIDO technology for secure payments and authentication with FIDO Alliance founding member Nok Nok Labs, specifically for its payments system, Alipay.

The diligent time and effort Alibaba has put into the development of this online authentication ecosystem to support Alipay is a significant validation point for the FIDO Alliance’s mission, and for the biometrics industry as a whole.

An addition like this to the FIDO family will prove essential, as Alibaba can really accelerate the adoption of FIDO authentication standards with its massive user base. In a world where personal privacy is breached online every single day, validating what we’re trying to do is a welcome push towards the ultimate destination.

Join us in welcoming Alibaba Group and its Alipay solution to the front lines of the battle to eliminate unsafe passwords!

You can follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

Sensors in Sports: How Technology Will Revolutionize the Games We Love

SXSW logoWe all know how the NFL’s Super Bowl — America’s most-watched sporting event — goes: One team kicks off, and the ball tumbles into the returner’s hands. From the opening whistle, there are massive, rigid bodies plated in plastic pads and metal helmets smashing into one another at top speed, with the expressed intent of moving its target to the ground.

This makes for an entertaining spectacle, but one or more players will inevitably suffer an injury during the course of a given football game. This could be something as harmless as a cut or bruise, or something as life-threatening as a spinal injury or severe concussion, which has become the top health concern in American sports.
Now, imagine the action of the Super Bowl, and look a decade into the future:

One team kicks off, and the WiFi-enabled ball tumbles into the returner’s hands. From the opening whistle, there are massive, rigid bodies plated in plastic pads embedded with a heart monitor and metal helmets wired with pressure-sensitive sensors, smashing into one another at top speed (MPH of course measured by an accelerometer on each player’s wrist) with the expressed intent of moving its target to the ground, where a set of precise cameras will measure the exact location of the ball for placement on the next play.

Those injuries will still occur. But with hundreds of sensors on the people, field and machines involved, the harshness of injuries will be measured and relayed to team physicians in an instant, better equipping the NFL to make quick, smart decisions about treatment and to help collect information for prevention of future incidents.

If the risk of concussion is present, the player might wear an octopus-like “helmet” wrapped around his head. This device, complete with 256 perfectly-placed electrolyte-soaked sensors, will run comprehensive, accurate tests on the player’s brain to determine the best course of action. Sensor-infused technological advances like this may change the way sports are played and officiated forever; in some ways, they already are:

FIFA used cameras to help determine whether a ball was officially in the goal or not during this year’s World Cup.

• At the NFL Draft Combine, several athletes display Under Armour’s shirts with built-in breathing monitors and accelerometers – this technology is tweaked and improved for every new combine.

• Major League Baseball is looking at sleeve technology that will measure a pitcher’s health in real-time and potentially cut down on the torn UCL epidemic.

• In professional tennis, Ralph Lauren just introduced high-performance shirts at the U.S. Open, which contain sensors knitted into the core of the product to read biological and physiological information; a major breakthrough in the Quantified Self movement.

• Professional cycling already features on-bike point-of-view camera shots and collects massive amounts of data to measure riders’ physiological signs. That data is published and broadcast to the public, heightening the incredible demands the sport places on these athletes.

Yours truly is up for an SXSWi 2015 session on sensors in sports and the science behind them. I’ll discuss the benefits of allowing technology to infiltrate the sports world, including my own predictions on which applications may be on the horizon. If you want to know everything about the Trillion Sensor Movement and its relation to your favorite sport, please visit the SXSW panel picker and give Synaptics a big thumbs-up! Voting ends this Friday, September 5th!

 

Want more Synaptics news? Follow @SynaCorp on Twitter!

On the Up and Up: We’ve Shipped Two BILLION Units

There’s an old adage somewhere that says the first million is the hardest to make, but that applies to the first billion too. It took us 17 years to ship our first billion units, a milestone we reached back in 2011. Driven by the industry’s broadest human interface solutions portfolio, it only took us just three more years to cross the threshold of two billion shipped units. As we continue to up the game and do what we do best – lead the industry with our touch and fingerprint authentication solutions – our next billion is just around the corner.

The mobile market has been incredibly dynamic for years now and that activity doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Our high-performance touch solutions have helped to enhance the mobile experience, and are making their way into the hands of more consumers across the globe faster than ever before. Additionally, our recent acquisition of Validity has left us in a very favorable position to take advantage of exciting opportunities in the burgeoning biometrics market – an area that will help make interacting with your phone effortless.

All of this comes on the heels of significant company milestones which have accelerated our explosive momentum over the past year. The latest Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone includes our Natural ID™ fingerprint solution along with our industry-leading ClearPad® technology for the second consecutive iteration of the flagship device. In the PC industry, the latest HP EliteBook line incorporates ForcePad®, making it the first TouchPad to include pressure recognition, while ClickPad™ 2.0 won a CES Innovation Award for being the most advanced capacitive-sensing notebook touchpad technology available.

These game changing technologies have translated to notable customers wins from the biggest global OEMs including Acer, Amazon, Dell, HTC and others – all of which will help to drive our business to new heights.

Now that we’re done patting ourselves on the back, it’s time to get back to work and set our sights on shipping the next billion units!

Want more Synaptics news? Follow @SynaCorp on Twitter!

Samsung Galaxy S5: Busting the Biometric Myths

Biometrics MythThe future of technology rests in your hands. And your eyes. And your ears and your heart and your hair and your toes and every inch of human body in between.

Of course, I’m talking about biometrics, which is already gaining mass adoption in the newest mobile devices as a means to authenticate one’s ability to communicate, shop and browse on a smartphone.

Most recently, Synaptics’ Natural ID solutions were implemented in the Samsung Galaxy S5 and allow users access to their phones with a fingerprint swipe rather than fumbling with a hard-to-remember, broken passcode system.

The biometric method is superior for many reasons, with convenience and improved security functions chief among them. But many users are questioning the technology and its hackability, and whether it could lead to more important data being stolen.

That’s what I’m here for. To bust those myths that swirl around biometrics. Here are five of the most common fables, debunked:

1. Can my severed finger unlock my phone?

Ouch. Not only is this completely unlikely, but it’s entirely gruesome. Luckily, the technology behind these sensors requires that it be accessed with a live finger. There is no way for the reader to pick up the correct image on a dead pulse, though a fingerprint won’t be completely unrecognizable until a few bloody minutes have passed. Unless you have zombie limbs. And in that case, you have bigger problems. Personally, I’d be more than happy to unlock the device if threatened, than lose a finger over my Facebook posts.

2. What about an exact replica of my fingerprint?

If you have the specialized, expensive equipment to pull a fingerprint replica, then this plan just might work. However, all the components in the Galaxy S5 allow for the process to be canceled and renewed in those situations, and you have the option of applying your finger at a certain angle and pressure to make it even harder to hack. Even if someone goes to all that trouble just to steal access to your phone, it would be a lot harder to get into than hacking a four-digit passcode.

3. Are you going to save my fingerprint data in the cloud?

Not to worry. We only save a local copy (the template) of your print on the device, so there is no massive, hackable cloud hovering in the interwebs somewhere. If your fingerprint is stolen or your device is hacked, your identity is still safe. Thieves will not be able to reconstruct a clean image of your fingerprint from the digital template in the device. The template is the element that can be replaced.

4. Will a stolen phone put my data at risk?

Again, unless the thief has the wherewithal and technology to replicate your fingerprint, this won’t pose any problems beyond ruining your day. The local copy of your data won’t be accessible without your print, and you can turn it off remotely if necessary. And it remains much better protected than phones belonging to the 50 percent of users today who don’t even bother to use their PIN.

5. What if I break my phone and can’t use the scanner?

The touch driver was designed to read the print through cracks and dents for those users possessing above-average clumsiness. It won’t be as pleasant to swipe across, but the reading itself shouldn’t be affected. If absolutely necessary, you can initiate a recovery mechanism in this instance. Just try to drop it on couch cushions instead of concrete from now on.

More questions for us? Follow @SynaCorp on Twitter!

Pro Tips: Achieving the Best Fingerprint ID Experience on the Samsung Galaxy S5

FingerprintIt should come as no surprise that the mobile industry is in the midst of a dramatic shift towards biometrics, with companies like Samsung becoming the latest smartphone manufacturer to leverage fingerprint ID technology in its newest flagship device, the Galaxy S5.

As you may have seen, Synaptics Natural ID™ solution is behind the fingerprint security feature for the S5, which allows users to swipe their finger across the phone’s home button to unlock it, as well as provide access and authorization for mobile payments.

Synaptics Natural ID sensors are compliant with the FIDO Alliance, the industry-standard for online authentication. FIDO-compliant websites and web apps, like PayPal, seamlessly interact with the fingerprint sensor to replace annoying, unsecure and hard-to-remember passwords.

With any new technology, there can be a slight learning curve. To help ensure that every user has a seamless, frustration-free transition, we pulled together a quick video that’ll showcase our tips and tricks for achieving the best experience possible with the S5’s fingerprint ID functionality. Check it out:

Have an S5 of your own? Let us know what you think about the fingerprint functionality.

Don’t forget to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

The Chimera Chronicles: How Synaptics’ First DIY Processor Was Born

In every modern Synaptics touch or TDDI chip, there lurks a mythical beast revered throughout history for its undying fierceness. It was born out of stone, fire and human ingenuity, molded at the hand of Federico Faggin, Synaptics’ co-founder and first CEO.

The legendary Chimera microprocessor, much like the Greek mythological figure from which it takes its name, combines many different parts to create one magical, undefeatable whole. Its purpose was, and still is, to pull together multiple processes into one centralized solution, and to do so with power and efficiency.

The story starts in 1996, when Synaptics created its first all-in-one touch controller. The goal was to integrate touch analog circuits, a microprocessor for running firmware, and program and data memories all into a single silicon chip. Finding a commercial core with the immense strength and small stature needed to perform our job proved difficult. So, a crazy alternative was put into action.

Creating a processor from scratch seemed like a foolhardy task, but we had inspiration – Faggin had built several noteworthy microprocessors in his time, including the Intel 4004, the world’s first microprocessor chip.

Nine months after the conception of the plan, we had created our first integrated touch chip, called the T1004 (which has a processor still shipping in today’s T1007!). Eventually, we embarked on a more scalable design. We christened that final product with the “Chimera” moniker, after the mythological beast of Greek lore.

Chimera 1.0 was smaller and cheaper than the standard alternative, yet proved to be much more adept at the intricate control functions that encompass Synaptics firmware. As the touch world continues to move from simple profile sensors to multi-touch transcapacitive imagers (plus proximity, gloves, In-Cell, Single-Layer, and so on), our firmware’s needs have consequently grown and changed in character, and Chimera has evolved to match them.

We’re proud of what we created almost 20 years ago, and the Chimera monster has stood the test of time thus far. So, what is next? Bringing more scalability and better power management to larger memories is a natural fit for our current chip road map.

Beyond that: Chimera is all ours, so we can adapt it to meet the market’s every demand.

As they say, heroes are remembered, but legends never die.

You can follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp

Synaptics 2014 Human Interface Index Sheds Light on Touchscreen Use in Asia

Did you know that a majority of Asians (61 percent, in fact) find themselves interacting with a touchscreen in the morning before interacting with their spouse or family? This is just one example of the pervasiveness of capacitive touchscreens in the daily lives of the Asian population, highlighted this week in Synaptics’ first-ever Asia Human Interface Index.

The Human Interface Index surveyed more than 2,000 consumers across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea to gain an understanding of how Asians use capacitive touchscreens in their daily lives and their overall perceptions of the technology.

The infographic below highlights some of our key findings.

For example, what do Asians love most about touchscreens? Ease-of-use, fast performance and the intuitive, interactive experience topped the list. They also see the technology as significantly enhancing the user experience when it comes to gaming, handwriting with a stylus, and interaction with photos and videos.

Where do they want to see updates? Resizable buttons, integration with voice command and multi-gesture touch capability were most frequently noted.

Surveys like our Human Interface Index help Synaptics better understand the end user so that we can continue to provide the absolute best touchscreen experience possible. Plus, it’s just fun to see the results. That said, keep an eye out for more interesting data from Synaptics in the future!

 

Synaptics_Human_Interface_Infograpic_Final

 

You can follow Synaptics on Twitter at @SynaCorp.

Five Questions with Synaptics Biometrics Guru, Sebastien Taveau

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.

Sebastien Taveau, SynapticsHere’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: