Mobile device and computer security are of serious concern in today’s world (just ask the NSA). Leaving these devices in public can lead to a host of problems including unwanted access to bank accounts, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers, and unwanted guests at both work and home.
Currently there are security measures in place that can keep unwanted visitors out of your digital world, the most basic being passwords, which can easily be hacked. Other more advanced methods of security include retina and fingerprint scanners that identify a particular user to grant access to sensitive materials. These systems are standalone devices that were not typically integrated into any system, mobile device, or touchscreen until now.
Researchers from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany have developed a touchscreen that is capable of identifying the fingerprints of its users. The problem with incorporating a fingerprint reader is that most fingerprint readers (or biometrics) rely on light to capture the unique patterns on people’s fingers, and most touchscreens can't sense light, but rather function using capacitive or resistive technology that senses pressure when touched.
The team, led by Christian Holz and Patrick Baudisch, developed the Fiberio tabletop touchscreen in an effort to combine both technologies together for an ultra-secure interface that can be used by the public. The touchscreen uses a new screen material known as large fiber optic plate, which is comprised of millions of 3mm-long optical fibers bundled together in the form of a platter. This both diffuses projected light and reflects it at the same time, making it ideal as a touchscreen with the reflection needed to read fingerprints.
The screen itself sits atop an aluminum stand with a projector housed underneath the screen itself. An IR (infrared) illuminator is housed adjacent to the projector, which illuminates the user’s fingerprints and reflects the images to a high-resolution infrared camera that identifies not only finger/hand location, but hovering objects, as well. The screen has the potential to be used in myriad places and projects that require a certain level of security.
The team envisions the technology could be used in banking institutions for approving loans (requiring more than just a signature) or used as tables in coffee shops, allowing patrons to answer emails, surf the Web, or hone their writing skills without the need for passwords.