Explained: Different fingerprint scanners available on smartphones and how they work


Smartphones come with various security systems like – PIN, password, face recognition and others to protect your device from unwanted access. Fingerprint scanner is also a type of electronic security system that uses fingerprints for biometric authentication to grant users access to their devices. Fingerprint readers are now a common security system that is present in most mobile devices.
What are fingerprint scanners?
We all know that every human being has their own unique fingerprints, this property helps devices to successfully identify individual users. As technology advanced, manufacturers were able to integrate fingerprint scanners (or sensors) as an optional security feature for mobile devices. Fingerprint scanners have now become a common thing in most mobile devices as users take advantage of them for added security and convenience.
These sensors capture the curves and tiny edges of a finger and use the device’s analysis/pattern matching software to process the information and compare it to the list of registered fingerprints. Access to the device is granted only when there is a successful match and the user’s identity has been verified. The method of capturing data varies depending on the type of sensor used on the device. Now let’s take a look at the different types of fingerprint scanners and how they work.
Different types of fingerprint scanners available on smartphones
Optical scanner: Optical scanners usually make a photocopy of the finger. Most scanners illuminate the finger to provide perfect line contrast as the light-sensitive sensor records the information to produce a digital image. Most fingerprint scanners attached to PCs use optical sensors.
Capacitive analyzer: Capacitive scanners use electricity instead of light to determine fingerprint patterns. The device measures the load of a finger when it rests on the capacitive touch surface. The sensor determines which curves of the finger show a change in capacitance and which produce no change. All of this data is then used by the sensor to accurately map fingerprints. Most smartphones use capacitive sensors for reading fingerprints.
Ultrasound scanner: Ultrasound scanners use sound waves to work. It is very similar to the echolocation process used by bats and dolphins to find and identify objects. The hardware is designed to discharge ultrasonic pulses and measure the amount that bounces. The curves and edges present on your fingers reflect sound differently, ultimately helping ultrasound scanners create a detailed 3D map of fingerprint patterns. The 3D ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor developed by Qualcomm has been adopted in Samsung devices.
Capacitive optical scanners: Ultrasonic fingerprint scanners are not the only option for manufacturers to hide the sensor in the screen, capacitive optical fingerprint scanners can also be used for the same purpose. These scanners include both the “real touch” requirements of capacitive sensors and the speed and power efficiency of optical scanners. This technology is integrated into mobile devices by inserting a sensor under the screen that detects the light reflected from a fingerprint through the interstices of the pixels.


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