BIO-key awarded patent for enhancing small fingerprint sensors’ performance
18 May 2017 16:43 GMT

Fingerprint solutions firm BIO-key has been granted a US patent covering the performance of small area fingerprint sensors.

The firm says that the patented method enables BIO-key and its licensees to leverage existing small area sensors to capture substantially more fingerprint surface area, leading to a higher degree of accuracy when performing a match.

“Better accuracy leads to superior end user experiences, and for the first time, provides a means for higher security fingerprint authentication scenarios using small area sensors. BIO-key's innovation will allow device manufacturers, application creators, enterprises, and most importantly, end users, to place more trust in the security of smaller fingerprint scanners”, wrote BIO-key in a statement.

Small area sensors capture only partial fingerprints, impacting the reliability of biometric matching, and preventing interoperable matching between small sensors and full size sensors. A small area sensor may be used as a touch sensor for simple on-device authentication, but security concerns have emerged to limit the trust in small sensors for higher stakes scenarios.

Small sensors' "partial print" vulnerability was demonstrated in a widely publicized April 6, 2017 IEEE report by researchers at New York University and Michigan State University, entitled, "MasterPrint: Exploring the Vulnerability of Partial Fingerprint-based Authentication Systems," which exploited small sensors' limited capture area to achieve imposter matches.

BIO-key has said that its innovation overcomes the area limitations of small sensors by enabling the capture of more data using the existing small sensor as a dynamic area capture device when needed.

"Nearly every device manufacturer is including fingerprint biometric authentication as a security and convenience option for their customers," stated Mira LaCous, BIO-key's Chief Technology Officer. "Before BIO-key's innovation, they had to make difficult tradeoffs between sensor area footprint and accuracy. This patent and BIO-key's IP behind it is intended to deliver the best of both worlds - enterprise-level security via sensor sizes that are unobtrusive and esthetically pleasing."