Fingerprint Sensors – Have They Become Obsolete or Are They Here to Stay?

The global identity and access control landscape is witnessing a continuous evolution. Application of biometrics, which, for more than a decade, had remained confined to some high-end applications which included expensive solutions, can now be seen extending even to low end applications. A good number of biometric technologies like iris recognition, gesture recognition, facial recognition and identification are available in the market today. Although iris recognition started gaining traction in the markets lately, it has been able to gain immense traction in a short period on account of high levels of reliability and security offered by it. Since iris scans cannot be easily duplicated, risk of security breach remains low. Facial recognition and identification also offers significantly high security and reliability and continuous advancements in technologies are making this technology more robust. Apple, for instance, has remained a key innovator in this segment. With launch of Iphone X along with other variants of iphone in 2017 , Apple Inc. also showcased its all-new facial recognition and identification technology. Samsung is also another key innovator in this landscape. However, since the performance and security of contactless identification and access control technologies rely  on the quality of other hardware components, these technologies are still witnessing some challenges when it comes to widespread adoption across all sectors and end users. Limitations of contactless access control technologies have been strengthening the presence of contact-based technologies like fingerprint recognition among end users, thus boosting their market growth. Continuous advancements in fingerprint sensing technologies are making these solutions more robust and breach-proof. Optical fingerprint sensors, which entered the market when the concept of fingerprint sensing came to light, work by shedding a light on a fingerprint, when finger is placed on the scanner, and capturing a digital image of it.

This image goes to the light-sensitive microchip, which then analyses it based on the pattern of ridges and valleys found in the image of fingerprint, and creates a unique identification code for the user by converting ridges into 1’s and valleys into 0’s. This information is captured for all users initially and stored in a database. Now when a user places the same finger on the scanner, the system again converts the fingerprint into a series of 0’s and 1’s and looks for the code it creates in the database. By matching the code to the list of codes in the database, the system either identifies the user or does not identify the user, and decides whether to grant access or not to grant access accordingly. However, high security risks associated with this approach is driving it out of the market and giving way to other approaches like capacitive fingerprint sensing among others. Capacitive fingerprint sensors have, in a very short duration, managed to hold very high traction in the market.

fingerprint sensors market

This technology uses miniaturized capacitor array circuits which perform the analysis of fingerprints. The working principle of capacitive fingerprint sensors is is that charge in a capacitor changes at points where ridges of fingerprints come in contact with the conductive plate, and charge in capacitor remains unchanged at points where valleys are present on the fingerprint. The system leverages an analog-to-digital converter, which records the changes in charge in capacitor at all points and converts them into an array of 0’s and 1’s. All points where the charge changes are considered as 1s by the amplifier integrator circuit while the points where the charge remains unchanged are considered as 0’s. Since this type of fingerprint sensing is very reliable, its popularity is increasing across a wide range of end users. The global fingerprint sensors market growth is majorly being driven by robust growth of smartphone market across the globe. Although the market growth seems flat in many developed economies on account of already high penetration of smartphones in such countries, the market growth is high in many developing and under-developed countries on account of huge investments being pumped into business expansion by smartphone manufacturers. For instance, on July 9, 2018, Samsung, a leading smartphone manufacturer, opened its world’s largest facility for smartphone manufacturing in Noida, India. This expansion is a part of the company’s ‘Make for the World’ initiative, under which the smartphone giant carried out this phase-wise expansion in Noida.

The company pumped around INR 4,915 crore in this facility, and seeks to double the annual manufacturing capacity in Noida from 68 million units earlier to 120 million units. Furthermore, recent removal of a clause from its Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme by the government of India have opened doors to immense growth opportunities. Under this clause, the plant and machinery of smartphone manufacturers, which they would bring to the country,  used to be valued at 40% of its value.Since this clause posed huge risks to manufacturers and raised up the barriers to exit for them, it witnessed huge criticism from many of them. Removal of this clause by the government of India, as it seeks to fuel smartphone manufacturing within its borders when the country is struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and offering of lucrative financial incentives of around INR 500 billion to smartphone manufacturers, the government anticipates inflow of huge capital investments into this sector. Similarly, countries across regions with favorable business environment for smartphone companies are witnessing a surge in the inflow of capital investments into smartphone manufacturing, thus adding impetus to smartphone manufacturing. Moreover, smartphone manufacturing is also increasing on account of increasing penetration of internet worldwide. The figure given below shows the trend:

Global Internet Penetration, % of Population, 2012 to 2017

fingerprint sensors market

Source: The World Bank Group

With increasing internet penetration across the globe, we are witnessing an increase in demand for devices which enable people to harness the benefits of internet connectivity. This is increasing the demand for smartphones across the globe, thus driving with it the demand for components like fingerprint sensors. The demand for fingerprint sensors is also being driven by rapid growth of smart hospitality market worldwide. The figure given below shows the expected growth of global smart hospitality till 2025:

Global Smart Hospitality Market, in US$ Billion

fingerprint sensors market

Source: Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence Estimates

Since security occupies a strong position in the overall smart hospitality infrastructure, incorporation of fingerprint sensing capability among solutions is increasing, thus augmenting the fingerprint sensors market growth.