It’s not your great-grandfather’s biometric anymore as a new patent promises to deliver a fingerprint sensor in keyboard keys. The fingerprint has received another vote of confidence from another major technology company, with a Microsoft employee in Asia applying for patent that would put a fingerprint sensor in a computer keyboard’s actual keys—a move that could impact not only e-commerce but digital ID programs as governments become more sophisticated about secure authentication.
It could be an important step toward ongoing, ambient authentication where the user of a machine is re-authenticated throughout a transaction or user session.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the patent application, filed by Microsoft Technology Licensing LLC, covers a “Keyboard Fingerprint Sensor.” The invention places a fingerprint sensor in a computer’s keyboard, enabling a user to press a key to conduct the biometric authentication.
The new patent application shows the ongoing appeal of fingerprints for secure authentication, and the ability to embed that biometric sensor under one or more keys on a keyboard could prove to be an important step toward ongoing, passive and ambient authentication. In such a scenario, the user of the machine could theoretically be re-authenticated at multiple stages—as certain keys are pressed—during a transaction or user session.
Challenges deploying fingerprint sensor in keyboard keys
The idea may sound simple but the execution is not, notes TheTechnnews.com. “Putting a fingerprint reader into a device takes up some space, creating new manufacturing complexity,” the online publication says about the invention, which is credited to PengFei Lei, an engineer at Microsoft Asia’s Center for Hardware.
The patent describes a device that would use ultrasonic measurement technology to read the fingerprints. Keys use backlighting to indicate where users would place their fingerprints for active biometric authentication.
The device, the article continues, could help overcome challenges that come with hooking up fingerprint sensors to computers via USB ports. “Integrating the fingerprint reader in the keys has become crucial,” the online outlet says. “If the patent gets approved, it could fix some problems related to fingerprint sensors.”
Even as Microsoft and other major technology and digital ID companies continue to develop secure authentication systems that rely on iris and face recognition, among other biometrics, the seemingly lowly fingerprint continues to gain corporate attention and research dollars, in large part because of fingerprints’ reputation for reliability. For instance, Microsoft recently received a patent for an “under-display fingerprint sensor” for touch screen devices, according to WalkingCat and OnMfts.com, two news sources that focus on the tech giant.