Ultrasound Fingerprint Sensor Update Could Be More Secure

Fingerprint sensors, once the domain of James Bond-style spy films, are old hat here in 2021. On many cell phones and laptops, such sensors are hardly the cross-border technology that could only be found in the fiction that they once were. However, an innovative twist on the biometric technology developed by North Carolina State University adds something excitingly new to the mix.

Researchers at the university have developed a new type of fingerprint sensor that uses ultrasonic pulses to image the blood vessels in the fingertip and analyze the fingerprints themselves. In this way, fingerprint analysis is shifted beyond the two-dimensional limit of regular sensors into the world of three dimensions.

“Our study demonstrates a 3D approach to fingerprint recognition using ultrasound imaging of finger vessels [patterns] within the finger of a user that is unique to [the] individual and invisible from the outside, ”said Chang Peng, postdoc at NC State, to Digital Trends. “Compared to existing 2D fingerprint recognition technologies, 3D recognition, which captures the finger vasculature in a user’s finger, is cheap to prevent spoofing attacks and is therefore much more secure. In addition, the pulse-echo ultrasound imaging used in this approach is insensitive to fingerprint contamination such as water and oil. “

Fingerprint sensors: the next generation

By the sound of things, fingerprint sensors could be about to make a comeback – with Touch ID on the display, which is supposedly a new feature for this year’s iPhone update.

The NC State technology might not be quite ready by then. So far, the researchers have built a prototype that emits high-frequency pulse ultrasonic waves when an artificial finger is placed on a pressure sensor. With the help of their test setup, the researchers were able to record electronic images of a dummy fingerprint and a finger vessel with a resolution of 500 x 500 DPI.

Peng noted that security – specifically avoiding spoofing – is the technology’s primary advantage over alternative fingerprint sensors. However, researchers have yet to compare it to other solutions on the market to quantify how much safer it could be.

“There is definitely a way to quantify this improvement, but in our first study we did not quantitatively compare this improvement to other fingerprint sensors and more testing needs to be done,” he said.

Xiaoning Jiang, a professor at North Carolina State University, co-authored the study. Recently, a research report entitled “Under-Display Ultrasound Fingerprint Recognition with Imaging of Finger Vessels” was described in the IEEE Sensors Journal.

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