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Fingerprint scanners make the leap from spy flicks to your smartphone

The words “biometric fingerprint scanning” are never going to fill seats or win fans. It’s a technical phrase that sounds boring, and we’ve been seeing biometric scanners in odd electronics for years now, but a company named CrucialTec has finally made fingerprint scanning a sexy feature you’re going to want in your next phone.

We caught up with CrucialTec at Mobile World Congress this week. CrucialTec is targeting the smartphone industry with its scanner, and it’s ready to be built right into a device’s home button. Imagine your iPhone’s home button could also scan your fingerprint at lightning speed. It would know if you’re its owner, but beyond even that, the possibilities are astounding.

CrucialTec Biometric scanner

The demo we were shown had a biometric scanner built into a home button on a custom case. At it’s most basic, CrucialTec’s fingerprint scanning adds a high level of security to locking and unlocking your phone. You slide your thumb down the home button to unlock it, and it won’t unlock unless your print matches the one you stored when you set up your phone. Swiping your thumb takes the same amount of time as drawing a simple unlock pattern on an Android phone, but its infinitely more secure. As time rolls on, we’re relying on our phones to help us perform more and more sensitive activities, like banking and paying for items, but our security usually still consists of a four-number pin or no locking mechanism at all. It’s archaic.

10 fingers, 10 features

Basic, fast fingerprint scanning is all and good, but CrucialTec’s system gets interesting with the additional security and convenience features. Usually, fingerprint scanning uses one finger, but most of us have nine other digits sitting idle. CrucialTec’s software allows you to assign a different function to each of your 10 fingers. For example, the camera could be linked to your index finger, and sliding that down the home button would unlock the phone and automatically open the camera app. Its secure nature also lends itself to quick launching apps such as Expensify, or wireless payment and online banking apps.

CrucialTec biometric fingerprint scanner 10 fingers

CrucialTec’s biometric scanner can also securely encrypt files which can only be opened using a swipe of your finger. The process is incredibly slick, as all that’s needed is to tap and hold the file you want to encrypt, then slide your finger over the home button. The file turns to a picture of a locked padlock and the original is securely locked away. You can unlock files by repeating the same process. Although this was demoed using pictures of a more adult nature, there are plenty of other (less dirty) files you might want to encrypt on your phone. With the introduction of such a simple encryption process, it may prompt us to store information we currently avoid saving.

It doesn’t hog power and is extremely accurate

CrucialTec biometric fingerprint scanner no hands

Biometric scanners aren’t power hogs, so adding them to modern smartphones won’t put additional strain on the battery. We’re told that the failure rate – or how often it falsely accepts a non-user or fails to recognize your print – is miniscule. A working fingerprint scanner can benefit anyone if its integrated correctly, but with the shortcuts and file encryption, scanners like CrucialTec’s may actually be fun to use. When Apple purchased fingerprint scanner firm AuthenTec last year, its technology became an Apple exclusive. Since then, there have been rumors the next iPhone may incorporate it. The industry being what it is, this could see the tech quickly increase in popularity.

We’re told CrucialTec’s system has already been licensed by an unnamed Chinese manufacturer, and is expected to be added as a feature to a smartphone released this summer. Hopefully we’ll get to use this system sooner rather than later.

(Photos by Ben Nelson, Envision Studio)