Sony files patent for smartphone that checks fingerprintsMon 26 Mar, 2012 // Briony Williams
The electronics company Sony has filed a patent for a smartphone that will scan a user’s fingerprints and deny access to the phone if the fingerprints are not those of the legitimate owner.
The patent, submitted by Sony to the US Patent and Trademark Office on March 22nd, is entitled “Sensor-Equipped Display Apparatus and Electronic Apparatus”. It outlines a new method whereby a fingerprint sensor can be incorporated into a smartphone so that the user touches a finger to an area of the screen, rather than interacting with a separate sensor elsewhere on the phone. This is made possible by a new “light-transmissive” screen that allows the sensor to operate even through the barrier of the screen.
This method considerably simplifies the process of biometric authentication of identity, so that it can be used easily by non-technical users. Hence it is suitable for mass-market production, unlike the existing specialised smartphones that currently use fingerprint scanning (such as the Motorola Atrix, where the fingerprint sensor is on the back of the phone).
If this new method is put into mass production, it could pave the way for the use of the smartphone as a replacement for a credit card, using “Near Field Communication” to allow vendors to read the credit card details directly from the phone. However, for this innovation to have credibility and trust, there is a need for far more rigorous security than is currently provided by a four-digit PIN. A biometric measure such as fingerprint scanning, which has already proved its reliability in other fields, could be the gateway technology that will allow the use of smartphones in making payments to take off.
Sony have not yet outlined their plans for utilising this innovation, and the filing of a patent is only the first step in a long process of development and testing. However, this patent is a highly significant first step in the evolution of the smartphone from its origins as a voice calling device, to its near-future incarnation as a multi-purpose personal productivity and lifestyle enablement device.
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