Earlier this quarter the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Google that reveals a unique facial and fingerprint authentication system. Whether Google is working with companies like Fingerprint Card or not is unknown at this time.
Google's Patent Background
Generally, a device, such as a mobile phone, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, etc., may have mechanisms to prevent access by a user other than the registered user. Such mechanisms may include password protection, fingerprint authentication, or facial recognition tools. However, facial recognition by itself may not be a sufficiently secure means to prevent access by other users of the device. For increased security, it may be beneficial to simultaneously capture facial recognition data and fingerprint recognition data to authenticate a user of the device.
Google's Invents Two-Step Authentication System
Certain implementations of Google's invention may provide solutions to the problems and needs in the art that have not yet been fully solved by conventional authentication mechanisms or processes. For example, certain implementations pertain to capturing a facial image of a user and a fingerprint of the user to authenticate a user prior to unlocking the device.
In one implementation, a computer program is embodied on a computer-readable storage medium. The computer program is configured to cause a processor to capture a facial image of a user utilizing a face camera and a fingerprint of the user utilizing a backside camera. The processor is further configured to compare the captured facial image with a reference facial image, and compare the captured fingerprint with a reference fingerprint. The processor is also configured to unlock a device when the captured facial image matches the reference facial image and the captured fingerprint matches the reference fingerprint.
Google's patent FIG. 2 noted below illustrates a process for performing a function on the device using facial and fingerprint authentication. At step #204, Google notes that in order to capture a fingerprint of the user and the facial image of the user at the same time, the second camera is configured to automatically detect whether the user has placed his or her finger on the second camera or whether the user performed a particular motion with his or her finger. The particular motion may include, for example, a circular motion, a rectangular motion, a swipe motion (up, down, left, right motion), a combination of different swipe motions, or the like.
Google's patent FIG. 4 noted above illustrates a display 402, a camera 404, and an activation button 410 are shown. The activation button may trigger the facial and fingerprint authentication process described herein when a user presses activation button.
The Camera may be configured to capture a facial image of the user and the display may be configured to display the facial image of the user prior to, and after, capturing the facial image of the user.
In Google's patent FIG. 4B noted above, the camera is illustrated. Generally, when a user places his or her fingers on the camera, the image of the fingerprint may not be clearly visible due to the lack of lighting, or flash, within the camera.
For instance, many devices include lighting or flash near the camera, and thus, when a user places his or her finger near or on the camera, the captured image of the fingerprint may not be clear or visible. To overcome this deficiency, device 400 includes one or more lighting elements, such as LED rings noted as patent point #408, placed within the camera.
In certain implementations, one or more lighting elements, such as the LED rings may be included in, near, and/or around the camera. The LED rings allow the camera to clearly capture an image of the user's fingerprint when the finger is placed over or covers the camera. For example, as the user places his or her finger on the camera, or taps the camera with their finger, the LED rings are configured to automatically illuminate such that the fingerprint of the user can be captured.
In certain implementations, the camera may be equipped with a touch sensor (not shown) to detect the finger of the user or the motion of the user's finger. The touch sensor may be located within the camera or near the camera. Other implementations may include a multi-touch sensor (also not shown) to detect the user's fingerprint before, during, and after the authentication process to unlock the device.
The new system could be embodied as a personal computer, a server, a console, PDA, a mobile phone, a tablet computing device, or any other suitable computing device, or combination of devices.
Google's patent doesn't discuss how they will secure the user's fingerprint file from hackers as Apple's secure enclave does. It also doesn't cover capturing the fingerprint at the sub-dermal layers of the skin as does Apple's new Touch ID. Yet as a general security feature, Google's unique two-step security process may be enough for most users.
Google filed their patent application back in May 2012 which was published by the US Patent Office earlier this quarter. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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