If there’s one thing that cell phones could use these days, one of the top things needed has to be better security measures to prevent unauthorized access into your phone. Because we all have those pictures or messages that might be a little risqué to show to some folks. Well, the folks at AuthenTec have a fingerprint sensor that not only helps one security, but also use the sensor to navigate the phone.
The newly released Fujitsu FOMA F906i (available only in Japan) has the AES1710 fingerprint sensor, among a slew of other really really cool features. Honestly, who in America doesn’t want their cell phone to be their credit card and a full web browser? In addition to being so cool and slick, the F906i has the ability to have navigation through the fingerprint sensor on the back rather than the traditional D-Pad that is still present on the model.
I had a chance to ask Art Stewart, the Vice President of Wireleess Products at AuthenTec, a few questions about the technology and also asked if us in the States would see it adopted soon.
CPS: What gave you the idea to use a fingerprint sensor as a “touchpad?”
Art Stewart: Touchpad control was a natural extension of the feature set that provides the cell phone user a combined privacy and personalized control experience. Today’s modern mobile platforms strive to achieve a highly convenient user interface through one touch point that recognizes the user, conveniently navigates through the rich device and web experience, and achieves that objective while lowering device cost.
Touchpad functionality grew out of AuthenTec’s close collaboration with cell phone manufacturers who were looking to eliminate multi-directional rocker switches by using the advanced imaging features of AuthenTec’s TruePrint technology. AuthenTec’s sensors can track finger motion across the sensor’s entire surface, so it was relatively easy to adapt the sensor’s software to enable touchpad-like control.
This navigation technology, known as TrueNav, also includes special turbo scrolling and acceleration features for ultra-fast browsing through lengthy e-mails, contacts, or music lists.
The first phones to use this feature were shipped in 2007, and although the FOMA F906i is the 16th Fujitsu phone model to use an AuthenTec fingerprint sensor, it is the first to incorporate TrueNav technology.
CPS: What has been the response to this technology?
AS: Fingerprint sensors have proven to be a popular addition to cell phones, particularly in Asia where more than 10 million fingerprint-enabled cell phones have been shipped. Fingerprint sensors are used on these phones to unlock stored value for credit and debit payments and mobile banking via a convenient swipe of a finger. These sensors enable secure mobile payments with just one touch, allow login to mobile banking sites without PINs or passwords, protect sensitive financial information, and eliminate identity theft if a phone is lost or stolen. Beyond security, the fingerprint sensor offers other touch-powered features such as personalization, convenience and navigation. These added features allow users to quickly launch cell phone apps, replace passwords and PINs, and easily navigate through files and affect cell phone device features such as camera zooming.
CPS: Will we see a mass adoption in the states in the next year or two?
AS: Although Japan is currently the largest market for fingerprint enabled phones, we are now seeing Mobile Network Operators outside of Japan add an AuthenTec-enabled mobile device to their subscriber offerings. For example, HTC’s P6500, which incorporates an AuthenTec fingerprint sensor, is now available in several geographies. Orange in the UK announced in February that they would carry the P6500 which is a Windows Mobile touchscreen smartphone supporting 3G in Europe and quad-band GSM in the U.S. In addition, all three of the major US carriers now offer 3G enabled laptops and UMPCs which feature AuthenTec sensors for security, convenience, and personalization. Other mobile devices, smart phones, and ultra mobile computers supporting both 3G cellular service and fingerprint biometrics are likely to roll out within the next few years.
As security becomes a bigger concern in the States, and throughout the world in general, technologies like fingerprint scanners in phones could easily become mainstream, and featured like TrueNav could make the sensors a bit more appealing. My first guess as to who the first manufacturer in the States will be to incorporate it? RIM.
Why? Because the BlackBerry will always be a business-first device and businessmen and women really rely on security. You can’t always hope that your IT guys will erase the BlackBerry’s contents remotely before somebody gains access to it.
This is a technology we can all definitely hope comes soon to the States, even if it does come at a bit of a premium. With our lives becoming more mobile, the switch needs to start now and cool featured like navigating with it will make it that much more appealing to the mainstream crowd.