Fingerprint sensor manufacturers are starting to look more closely at opportunities outside of the smartphone industry because of low returns from the segment that's being caused by rising demand, as suggested by a newly emerged report from the Far East. The biometric scanners have become nearly ubiquitous, resulting in the average selling point quickly approaching the $2, according to industry insiders. Consequently, the technology is no longer profitable in the handset segment.
Leading companies such as Egis Technology and Goodix Technology are also suffering due to an influx of competition from smaller vendors. Sources expect Silead, Novatek Microelectronics, and FocalTech Systems to put up an even bigger fight moving through 2019. That's setting aside increasing competition on the in-display fingerprint sensor side of things from an increasing number of companies, including Qualcomm.
With more intense competition, prices will likely continue to fall throughout the next 12 months. The downturn for the industry will almost certainly be beneficial to consumers since the technology will become less expensive and even more widespread.
Uhh… anyone in need of biometric scanners on the cheap?
Profit margins for other common uses of the sensors such as in laptops have remained comparatively high. That's likely thanks in part to how widespread smartphone use has become as contrasted to the saturation of other computing hardware. The average selling point in the notebook category is holding steady at around $5 with a margin of around 50-percent.
Lowered profit expectations for component suppliers means that computers aren't the only place OEMs are looking to implement the now-common biometric security measures either, according to the unnamed sources. Only two examples are provided but one of those implies that the security measure might soon see its way into a wider array of bank cards. The feature is already found in some high-level credit cards on offer from lenders and has been predicted in previous reports by DIGITIMES and others to be a go-to fallback as prices on fingerprint scanners continue to fall.
Financial institutions such as banks haven't fully embraced the technology yet and the pricing will still be higher for use in a plastic card than in a smartphone. That could temporarily raise the price of cards from banks that choose to use them but would ultimately be better for consumers since it would provide an added layer of protection there. The market for smart door locks and similar products have also seen an increasing number of offerings that include fingerprint scanners for security, providing another outlet for Chinese suppliers to improve profitability.
Less common uses
While still related to smartphones in some ways, another profitable area where the sensors might end up is in wearables. Android offers ways for a smartphone and wearable to be locked and unlocked based on proximity between the controlling smartphone and a watch or fitness band but other security methods for the devices are still relatively untapped.
Samsung has filed patents that could see its fingerprint readers incorporated in its own Galaxy-branded watches but aside from that, they aren't widely used. The sensors could offer a better way to secure sensitive data often stored on smartwatches when separated from the user's smartphone.
Similarly, the technology could begin to become more widespread in Chrome OS devices. As shown with Google's Pixel Slate Chrome OS tablet, there is a market for biometric security in those devices but neither tablets or smartwatches have explicitly been mentioned by industry insiders.