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.

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.

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

SecurePad: Coming to a Notebook Near You

SecurePad_ImageThe term “paradigm shift” has become a cliché as of late – but if we look carefully, we can still identify the occasional real one. In the world of security, one is taking place right in front of us. Since the ancient times of Greece, a password – that is a “shared secret” – has been used to confirm access rights. That model carried thousands of years forward into the computer age such that every electronic system today uses the same model with a slight twist: instead of comparing the password with another human, we are comparing it with a computer.

This model has always had its failings, and today with the need for secure authentication stronger than ever, a new solution is emerging. Enter stage right: Synaptics SecurePad™. Stepping up to complement its brethren in the mobile space such as that found on the Samsung Galaxy S5 – Synaptics SecurePad brings easy-to-use fingerprint scanning intelligently designed into the corner of a laptop’s TouchPad. Being a FIDO-ready device, SecurePad supports “password-less” authentication by enabling secure local authentication in a public key cryptography-based authentication architecture. In short – no passwords. No passwords to remember, to mistype, to change, to recover, to be overheard, to re-use, to be thought up, to be written down…no more passwords to be stolen, shoulder surfed, hacked, guessed or shared. This is the paradigm shift. In the new world, we place our finger and lift and we are done.

What does this mean for the consumer? It means a quick finger authentication to log into your PC, to secure or reveal sensitive files or gain Administrator access. To log into your websites you merely drop your finger on the fingerprint sensor – as easy as pushing a button. Want to buy something online? Touch your fingerprint sensor. Secure chat? Touch. Sign an electronic document? Touch.

SecurePad does not stop at bringing unprecedented user value. It enables broad adoption in the PC space by making manufacturing more cost-effective. A single chassis design is now possible, saving OEMs time and money – no longer will an OEM have to stock a separate palm rest design incorporating a fingerprint sensor cutout. SecurePad eliminates the need for duplicate hardware components such as connectors, cables and resistors used for separate modules, as well as excessive inventory requirements and multiple device driver efforts – ultimately lowering the total cost of ownership.

The new world has come, brought to you by Synaptics. Expect to hear much more about SecurePad in the weeks to come.

Be sure to follow Synaptics on Twitter @SynaCorp.

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

RSP 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, Inc. (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.

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!

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