It’s always great to meet up with the people at Synaptics – like I did at Mobile World Congress (MWC16) to see what the future holds from a touch-interface standpoint. Andrew Hsu, Head of the Concept Prototyping Team had lots of great information to share. First off, the company’s acquisition of Renesas SP Drivers and fingerprint sensor company Validity means great things for the world of touch-intensive applications. By having biometric authentication, capacitive touch and display technologies under one roof, the company is able to allow fingerprint sensors on the side of phones. Their Natural ID™ FS4304 is only 3.5mm wide and can be integrated into side-mounted buttons, such as the volume rocker meaning no real estate will be taken up by the sensor on the front or rear of the device.
“Once the display is designed with touch built in, you don’t have to worry about touch any more,” said Hsu.
Synaptics ClearForce force sensing technology
Other benefits of this deep integration include less complexity in construction, lower costs of touchscreen assembly, less noise since the same electrodes are used for multiple functions and cover glass which could be up to ¾ of a millimeter thinner. Check out the graphic above the video to see how this is accomplished.
The diagram below shows the value of isolating the complete biometrics solution in the sensor itself (left). This separate security-subsystem approach keeps this important part of the mobile device from being hacked via the smartphone OS
They also showed off force sensing with 256 levels of force for automotive applications. “Force sensing for improved acknowledgement and haptics to give feedback that a button has been activated. This boosts viability of this tech over mechanical buttons or resistive touch screens.” Said Andrew. He continued, “You get solid-state nature and sleek designs as well.”
Those people using an iPhone 6s probably agree that even three levels of force may be too many for a phone – let alone a car. Still, there are likely applications ahead we can’t contemplate today. Apple getting into the car business will likely help us better utilize force and touch in our vehicles. Not that the trend will slow without Cupertino’s increased movement into the space.
One other bit of good news is the company believes soon they will be able to turn the entire phone screen into a fingerprint sensor meaning no dedicated area taken up for this function. Also, they showed me gesture-based interface which could allow you to swipe in the air to communicate. Thinner screens, less cost, no touch displays and more flexible biometrics, the future looks bright indeed.