Synaptics' new touchpads can read your fingerprint

— 7:00 AM on December 10, 2014

Yesterday, the Fast Identity Online Alliance published specifications for an authentication system that promises to replace traditional passwords and PIN codes. Tech heavyweights Google, ARM, and Qualcomm are behind the effort along with Visa, MasterCard, and others. Synaptics is also part of the so-called FIDO Alliance, and the firm is rolling out a line of fingerprint-reading touchpads designed for the new specs.

The SecurePad family adds a fingerprint reader to Synaptics' existing touchpads, including the clicky and force-sensitive varieties. The sensor area measures 4 x 10 mm, and it can read digits in any orientation. Unlike typical notebook fingerprint readers, it relies on a touch rather than a swipe. An encrypted channel between the sensor and host system keeps fingerprint data secure.

The reader can be placed anywhere in the tracking area, but it creates a small "dead zone." Synaptics recommends that notebook makers put the sensor in the upper-left corner, where it shouldn't interfere with normal tracking or gestures.

According to Synaptics, SecurePad functionality only adds a few dollars to the cost of its existing products. It's cheaper to implement than separate fingerprint readers, the company says, and it's also simpler to integrate for notebook makers.

Synaptics will be demoing its SecurePad tech at the Consumer Electronics Show next month. Notebook makers can already get their hands on the hardware, and the first systems to incorporate it could be out as early as the first half of 2015.

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