2018 marks the 11th year that fingerprint scanners were integrated into mobile phones. In 2007, Toshiba added this futuristic feature to their G500 and G900 devices – and so the trend began. 11 years on and we have seen several iterations across hundreds of mobile devices, but how reliable is this technology?
Actually, it’s very reliable and you would hope that it would be. In 2012, Apple Inc. alone invested $356 million into the technology through the acquisition of AuthenTec, a company focused on fingerprint reading and identification management software. This marked the modernisation of the mobile fingerprint scanner, and a growth in its popularity to such an extent that it is now an expected feature in any new mobile device.
In 11 years, the accuracy and speed at which a user’s fingerprint is read and identified has improved year on year – with Apple now boasting quick curve and contour identification at a resolution of 500 pixels per inch (ppi). However, this focus on accuracy has lead to much debate around the reliability of a fingerprint image over time. The inner-workings of fingerprint scanning in mobile devices has been a long-kept trade secret and all theories behind fingerprint image degradation is purely speculative.
It is theorised that, after capturing the initial image of your fingerprint your mobile device will continue to update this image each and every time you use the feature. This process, by average, happens 1500 times in a month (going off of the basis that the average millennial checks their phone 150 times a day, and supposing one third of those checks include unlocking the device).
This volume of recapturing is believed to corrupt the initial fingerprint scan causing the identification process to slow dramatically due to fingerprints not being read correctly and requiring several attempts before identification is successful.
Several articles have been written around this theory and several users stand by these beliefs, restarting the fingerprint capturing process once monthly. Does this work? We don’t really know. However, articles and the users that read them claim that it does – so maybe it does.
Perhaps it is a form of the placebo effect, who knows? We probably won’t find out for some time. But for your own peace of mind and scientific craving, give it a go.
Oliver, Consultant, Leyton UK
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