Toshiba announced a near-infrared 2.1MP BSI image sensor for iris recognition in smartphones, called the T4KE1. The sensor comes at a time when device manufacturers are embracing not just fingerprint recognition, but other forms of biometric authentication as well.
We've had fingerprint recognition in business notebooks and even in some smartphones for years, but it wasn't until the iPhone 5S that they became usable enough for mainstream smartphone users, to the point where it could either replace PINs and passphrases or add an authentication mechanism where none was used before.
A couple of years before the Apple iPhone 5S, we got Face Unlock from Android, which first appeared in Android 4.0 and was significantly improved in Android 5.0. However, because it uses normal front-facing cameras that weren't designed for biometric authentication, this method has largely been declared to be insecure.
This year, Intel launched its RealSense camera in notebooks, which, combined with Windows Hello software, can go a step further by using infrared scanning to get a richer and less-prone-to-spoofing face template for biometric authentication.
Toshiba's new near-infrared image sensor promises to be even more advanced by scanning not the faces, but the irises of smartphone owners, and then automatically authenticating and unlocking those phones for them.
The T4KE1 is a 2.1MP 1.12um BSI CMOS image sensor with a 1/7.3" optical format that offers 60 fps at 1080p image output. The sensor can capture iris images with higher sensitivity than conventional CMOS sensors, as it discards the usual color filter found in those sensors, increasing the sensitivity of the near-infrared spectrum.
Toshiba's sensor supports a serial interface found in many smartphones, which ensures easy integration. The company will also provide design documentation, a reference camera module, and technical support to help its OEM customers shorten development time and ship devices faster to market.