Samsung Files Patent for Fingerprint Reader That Works Without Touch

Samsung has filed a US patent application for a non-touch fingerprint recognition system using a device’s camera and matching the fingerprint to a stored image.

Image: US Patent Office

While using this technology, a user needs to place his/her fingertip in front of the camera of the mobile device; the device then searches for a positive match with a valid fingerprint image that is stored in the phone’s memory. The technology is capable of automatically changing the camera’s focus until it captures a high-quality image of the fingerprint. The system also features an on-screen guide that helps the user line up the fingertip with the camera accurately.Image: US Patent Office

In certain cases, contactless methods can be better than full-contact fingerprint readers. External factors might affect accuracy, such as the dryness of a user’s hand or motion distortions in fingerprint patterns. This contactless technology might make logging on to your phone or authorizing a mobile payment easier.

The patent was filed in the Korean Intellectual Property Office on November 22, 2013, but it is also recognized by the US Patent Office.

Samsung’s patent was filed on the same day that Google announced it will be using fingerprint readers as the main authentication method in its Android Pay mobile payments system.

One major challenge that we see in this method is the possibility to fake a user's credentials. Unlike Apple's Touch ID (which detects whether the finger has blood supply), if someone is able to create prosthetic skin with a user's fingerprints, the authentication will still work as permission from the user will not be required. Therefore, it looks like the payment authentication technique developed by the Korean smartphone manufacturer will need some iterations.