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New system builds facial recognition into fingerprint readers

New system builds facial recognition into fingerprint readers

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Today, the sensor company Synaptics announced a new method for combining fingerprint readers and facial recognition on a single device. Referred to as a “multi-factor fusion engine” by Synaptics, the system would allow facial or fingerprint logins to be used interchangeably, or combined for an even more robust login. In September, the company announced a partnership to bring fingerprint sensors to Lenovo laptops.

Handling biometric logins is both sensitive and processor-intensive. As a result, most fingerprint readers build additional hardware directly into the sensor, giving it the power to accept or reject a print without making it available to the rest of the device. But while that system protects fingerprints from potentially hacked devices, it also makes it difficult to incorporate other biometrics like facial recognition without duplicating hardware. Synaptics’ new system is designed to bring those together, incorporating facial recognition processing into the same hardware as the fingerprint sensor, while integrating with the device’s built-in camera.

The result for users will be simple: more logins with facial recognition. With fingerprint readers now standard on all but the cheapest smartphones, the new Synaptics system and others like it would make it easier for phones to build in facial recognition capabilities with little to no extra hardware. It’s hard to say how many apps will follow suit — many are still getting used to fingerprint logins — but it suggests we may see a lot more face-reading phones in 2017.