Apple’s Latest Surprise: Fingerprint Sensor

A new patent filing from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has reignited rumors about the possible integration of a fingerprint sensor into its future iOS devices. The patent outlines a “unitary encapsulation structure” design that would make a fingerprint sensor more compact and durable, reports Apple Insider.

The patent is titled “Integrally Molded Die and Bezel Structure for Fingerprint Sensors and the Like,” and it makes the implementation of a fingerprint sensor into a device like an iPhone more likely by making the entire structure more durable for everyday use.

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In the patent, Apple states: “By encasing both the bezel and the sensor die in the encapsulation structure, those elements may be brought closer together than heretofore possible. In addition, the encapsulation structure physically protects the bezel and sensor die, and in particular maintains the spacing between, in a fashion not possible by currently known device designs.”

Typical fingerprint sensors use conductive “bezels” that are incorporated into the surface of the sensor, which is called a “die.” These bezels, which use a small electrical charge in order to correctly “read” the fingerprint, are usually placed on the same level as the sensing die. However, since these sensors must remain relatively close to the user’s fingerprint in order to function properly, most fingerprint sensors leave this package exposed.

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However, Apple has developed a technique to encapsulate the entire biometric array into one package in order to make it more durable and compact. Obviously this would make the incorporation of a fingerprint sensor in an iPhone much more likely since the sensor would be able to hold up under the stresses of everyday use.

Apple has been rumored to be developing a fingerprint sensor for the next generation of iPhone ever since it bought AuthenTec, a mobile and network security company, last summer. Although AuthenTec specializes in many types of embedded security solution technologies, Apple seemed primarily interested in AuthenTec’s patent for a fingerprint sensor technology.

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