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MWC 2018: Day Four: Biometrics and Imaging Enhanced

by Ville-Petteri Ukonaho | Feb 27, 2018

Mobile World Congress (MWC 2018), the biggest show on Mobile and Smart Connected Ecosystem is taking place in Barcelona, from Feb 26 to Mar 1, 2018.

Strategy Analytics has a large team of analysts across Smartphones, Drones, Robots, Tablets, Wearables, Components, Smart home and Connected cars in attendance.

Please click here, to meet our DEVICES analysts at the show

Although the event officially kicked off Monday (Feb 26), vendors were eager to showcase their new devices in advance.

Our Day 1 coverage, on key smartphone launches is available here.

Our Day 2 coverage, on additional smartphone launches is available here.

Our Day 3 coverage, on AI, AR & 5G is available here.

The Show revolves around mobile devices and the technologies powering those, so this Day 4 blog will concentrate on few interesting new or enhanced technologies seen during the show.

Biometrics is a key technology area in a smartphone

At MWC 2018 several vendors were showcasing different solutions in facial recognition as well as in fingerprint authentication.

Fingerprint authentication has become de facto feature in modern smartphone and couple vendors were showcasing what may be the next phase in fingerprint technology i.e. under display sensor. Egis and Goodix, two well-known fingerprint sensor providers are showcasing their latest generation under display sensors at MWC. However, one vendor has brought the whole concept to a new level. Vivo, that announced worlds first smartphone with fingerprint sensor under display, the Vivo X20 Plus UD, has brought their next concept to the show. The prototype named Apex FullView has a phase 3.5 of the under display fingerprint solution. Vivo has developed a new technology “Half-Screen Fingerprint Scanning Technology” that they are showcasing in Apex. The technology transforms the entire bottom half of the OLED screen to one giant fingerprint detection pad allowing users to touch anywhere on the bottom half of the screen to perform fingerprint recognition. The technology enables a more flexible and intuitive experience while still meeting all industry standards for security. The new technology also opens up new security scenarios such as dual finger authentication for enhanced security. Pricing or availability is not known at this phase but technology itself looks good and works well.

Facial recognition has been part of smartphone security several years already, but only iPhone X with state of the art 3D facial recognition brought the security solution to the surface again. Himax, FotoNation and Egis Technology are showcasing their latest solutions at the show.

Whilst the Apple’s solution was based on structured light with 3D modeling, Egis and FotoNation are showcasing slightly simpler solutions suitable for lower end devices. Both solutions are single camera only but have intelligent depth-sensing algorithms built in.  The FotoNation solution uses neural network technology and state of the art liveness detection system to prevent spoofing and is designed for mobile phones. FotoNation claims to have false acceptance rate (FAR) of one in a million, and that it can identify a user in under 150 milliseconds.

Himax however, is showcasing a more advanced 3D structured light system similar to the one found inside the Apple iPhone X. The facial recognition system is co-designed with Qualcomm and combines Qualcomm’s 3D algorithms with Himax’s design and manufacturing capabilities in optics and near infrared sensors. The solution uses more than 33000 invisible dots in the overlay which is the highest amount in the industry. The system is claimed to have error rate of less than 1% which puts it on par with fingerprint recognition. Himax is working with multiple tier-1 Android smartphone makers to launch 3D sensing on their premium smartphones starting already the first half of 2018.


Imaging improved by Samsung

Imaging is a central part of a smartphone. Despite the megapixel war being over for now, the development has not stopped in this area. Vendors and sensor manufacturers are putting extra effort in enhancing the quality of the images as well as improving the overall experience.

One of the main vendors in the sensor area is Samsung, that also introduced their latest Galaxy S-series devices at Barcelona. One of the key features in the new devices is the enhanced imaging capabilities. For that, Samsung has rejuvenated old features from the past as well as designed new sensory.

The new is the ISOCELL Fast 2L3, an advanced camera sensor Samsung has developed for the Galaxy S-series. The sensor is 12Mpix 1.4µm and what makes it stand out is the integrated DRAM that sits directly under the analog logic layer. If the technology sounds familiar it is because Sony announced their sensor with similar structure last year at the MWC 2017. The technology puts Samsung to the peak position in the smartphone imaging area together with Sony.

The integration enables the image sensor to temporarily store a large set of frames taken in high speed quickly onto the sensor’s DRAM memory. This allows the sensor to capture a full-frame snapshot at 1/120 of a second and also makes it possible to record super-slow motion videos up to 960fps.

Another “innovation” in the imaging area that Samsung has brought to the table is variable aperture. The new S-series devices is using a system in its main camera that switches between f/2.4 and f/1.5 enabling the system to adapt into the existing lighting conditions dynamically. The system uses f/2.4 in most instances but if light goes below 100lux if switches to f/1.5 to get more light to the sensor. The system itself is nothing new as it has been first introduced in Motorola ZN5 back in 2008 and then in the Nokia N86 8MP.  

All  in all new technologies are not that prominently displayed in the MWC. the innovations hover around 5G, AI, AR, imaging and biometrics. 2018 seems to be a year with very few truly new innovations as the industry is preparing for the coming of 5G and focusing on improving existing solutions. Question arises, has innovation stagnated?

Previous Post: MWC 2018: Day Three: AI, AR & 5G | Next Post: MWC 2018: Smartphones -- It's a Wrap!

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