The electronics giant Sony has patented the fingerprint technology on their smartphones to identify their users. The touchscreen simply takes a scan of the thumb or finger using sensors and accept or deny access to the phone if the ‘wrong’ person tries to use the phone. Although Sony has not announced when we might see the technology on their smartphones, the fact is no other company can integrate the technology into their phones. The US Patent and Trademark Office has the patent registered and although we have seen biometrics used on phones in the past – the Atrix from Motorola had a biometric scanner on the reverse of the phone – Sony’s invention is for the front screen and to unlock the phone or can be used to lock private information.
As many believe the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology will be huge soon, then an easy way to grant access for payments via a fingerprint rather than having to key-in a code or password would make the process faster. This level of security would be far higher than punching in a PIN code, especially as there is a security threat with NFC technology and unauthorised purchases from stolen phones. Making transactions safer will increase the likelihood of people using their smartphones as credit cards for payments, which will ultimately change the way that shops and retailers operate, but surprisingly the amount of people that use their phones for retail purchases is still quite low.
The placing of sensors behind the screen could integrate the camera too, which would mean that video conferencing would be better as you could maintain eye-contact with the person you’re speaking to rather than looking down. As cameras are at the top of the phone during a video call, there is a lack of eye contact which can make business calls lack trust or confidence. However, with the camera sensor behind the screen itself, the camera is pointing directly at the user and this would instil more confidence.
Sony aren’t the only company that feels this is a good move, as Apple filed a patent 4 years ago to put the camera sensor in the middle of the screen so that users could take photos of themselves easily and have video calls with eye contact.
As far as security goes for the fingerprint technology, it guarantees the user is who he or she says they are, and this means that purchases or access to private files would not be allowed. If a Sony smartphone is stolen before the owner realises, they could save themselves financial loss as the phone would be unusable and the thieves certainly wouldn’t be able to purchase anything using NFC. Although the firm has yet to put the technology into place, nor Apple, it could be due to the infancy of NFC and they are waiting for retailers and shop owners to make the most of ‘tap to pay’ technology before rolling out fingerprint security and authorisation.