• Acoustic Imaging Technology Reported to Replace Touch ID in Future iPhone Models

    Posted on February 24th, 2017 Echo Brown | 315 comments

    In its filing for “Acoustic imaging system architecture,” Apple proposes a method by which a conventional capacitive fingerprint sensor like Touch ID might be replaced by an array of acoustic transducers laid out beneath a device display or its protective housing.

    As described in some embodiments, the transducers in a first mode generate acoustic waves, or pulses, capable of propagating through a variety of substrates, including an iPhone’s coverglass. Operation, or driving, of the transducers is managed by a controller.


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    The same transducer hardware then enters a second sensing mode to monitor reflections, attenuations, and diffractions to the acoustic waves caused by a foreign object in contact with the input-responsive substrate. Resulting scan data in the form of electrical signals is read by an onboard image resolver, which creates an approximated two-dimensional map.

    Applied to biometric recognition solutions, Apple’s acoustic imaging system might be configured to read a user’s fingerprint. According to the filing, ridges in a finger pad introduce an acoustic impedance mismatch that causes the mechanical waves generated by a transducer to reflect or diffract in a known manner.

    Like other biometric security solutions, the digital maps obtained by an acoustic imaging system are ultimately compared against a database of known assets to authenticate a user.

    Thanks to its design, the acoustic system can be installed practically anywhere in a device chassis, including directly under a display. Other potential points of integration include a screen’s perimeter or bezel, around buttons and in non-input areas of a housing, like a rear chassis. The latter coupling method would allow an example system to sample a user’s entire handprint.

    Indeed, in some cases the system might be configured to scan for particular body parts like a user’s ear or a skin pattern in order to determine how the device is being held. Depending on the implementation, an acoustic imaging system might also serve as a robust replacement for other legacy components like an iPhone’s proximity sensors.



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    The patent application goes on to cover system details like ideal materials, transducer placement, controllers, drive chips, component layouts and more.

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