January 22, 2014 – by Peter O’Neill
Peter O’Neill, President, findBIOMETRICS (fB): This has been a very active year for FPC and for the industry in general. I would like to start with some very recent news: You just introduced the World’s First Capacitive Touch Fingerprint Sensor Optimized for Android and Windows. Please tell us about this.
Urban Fagerstedt, Chairman of the Board, Fingerprint Cards (FPC): Fingerprint Cards has for the last few years expected biometrics to become a major thing in our cellular handsets to support various personal services over the mobile internet and to that end we started three years ago the development of a fingerprint sensor, a swipe sensor which at that time we thought would be the preferred form factor for biometric device handsets. In the early part of this year we had strong feedback from a number of customers that their preferred form factor would be a small size touch device and we duly started with development of that early this year. Since December we have had working samples of this device in our labs and we have been shipping those samples to prospective customers which was the background for the announcement. Since then the feedback we have received from several of the vendors in the handset industry that this is the form factor that they are looking for. We have great expectations for this product for the coming year.
fB: You are the newly elected Chairman of the Board. What are you initial plans for the company?
FPC: We need to stabilize and grow. We need to strengthen our delivery capabilities. We have for a number of years; Fingerprint Cards is now a 15 year old company, we have been a small player trying to implement the new technology. And our channel today is to grow various functions of the company to be a reliable and strong vendor in this industry. To that end we have started a rapid expansion; our R&D activities are much larger, we have improved logistic planning functions, basically trying to build a company strong enough to meet our expectations for this market.
fB: Fingerprint Cards has announced multiple mobile phone design wins in Japan ,China and elsewhere this year. Can you please elaborate on these wins?
FPC: As you know there was a dramatic change in the vendor scene of biometric sensors since Apple removed Authentec from the open market and that has put Fingerprint Cards and very few other companies in the eye of handset vendors because they want to be there they want to compete and that has really opened the market for us and our competitors.
fB: What was your take on the Apple launch and subsequent spoof?
FPC: Well we have followed it with interest, we are curious to see what the consumer reaction is to biometrics. You will recall that when they were first introduced in pieces there were complaints, a number of people chose not to use them because they felt awkward or difficult to use. So we are painfully aware that for biometrics to be a success, usability factors and reliability factors are important. We are following with interest the feedback Apple is receiving around this device.
fB: It certainly has changed the marketplace as you commented earlier. We certainly see it in the amount of interest to our webinar series for example and from all different areas especially in the financial industry and healthcare etc. the interest level is very high.
You also just made the announcement: Zwipe launches contactless biometric card with FPC touch sensor for direct match on the card. Can you tell us about this new solution?
FPC: Well we have in that last few years been working with several developers of card solutions and they tend to favor our solutions because our chip set is extremely lean on power and also the card application requires a very specific form factor because it need to be thin so touch is very, very difficult to achieve for cards due to flexibility and what have you. I would also comment that if you are looking for high security, the small touch sensor is a challenge and when you have a swipe you will have the biggest surface of the finger to look at. So for high security solutions you either want a big touch chip which is not reasonable for a handset as it would take too much surface and would be too expensive so you would want the swipe.
fB: Has this been a good year for your company?
FPC: It has been a very good year, we have seen the start of this business, we have seen the first of these orders. The one slight disappointment was that we had got it wrong from start assuming that the swipe sensor would be the big volume product but that has caused us to slightly undercut our original predictions for the year because the Touch is for a later introduction as we have already said and will be available for the market next year in volumes.
fB: Very good and what is on the near horizon for Fingerprint Cards?
FPC: It is to go out with the Touch sensor, help our customers implement their prototypes and development efforts and make sure that they have a good experience on them and basically that will pave the way for our business.
fB: Thank you very much Urban for taking the time with us today.
FPC: Thank you Peter, for this opportunity.