Natural ID brings fingerprint recognition to phones, tablets

The fingerprint authentication technology, developed by Validity Sensors, may someday replace your smartphone's passwords and pin numbers.

It's the stuff of science fiction: You press your finger to a touch screen, the ridges in your skin make an impression on the smooth glass, and the device recognizes your fingerprint and welcomes you back.

Fingerprint authentication technology is still maturing, but San Jose-based tech company Validity Sensors is demonstrating its Natural ID technology at the International CES this week in an effort to draw more interest from manufacturing partners.

Natural ID sensors lie beneath a smartphone or tablet's glass display to unobtrusively scan your fingerprint and verify it. Since launching in 2008, Validity has focused so far on computer-based fingerprint authentication services. Now, the company is switching its attention to phone and tablet fingerprint technology because passwords and pins aren't secure enough, said Validity marketing director Doug Vargha.

Natural ID is garnering attention from unspecified phone and tablet OEMs, Vargha said while demonstrating the technology on a smartphone Monday night.

Qualcomm and Intel are already believers in Natural ID; the companies' venture capital arms are significant investors in Validity.

Other smartphone makers are clearly interested in the future of fingerprint authentication; Apple late last year acquired security solutions company AuthenTec, a maker of fingerprint readers and sensors.

The technology isn't simply a safer way to prove your identity, it's also just plain cool. As Vargha pressed his finger to the glass, his print glowed against the black display. His phone recognized him and came to life. Welcome to the future.

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