JDI, short for Japan Display Inc, is probably best known for being one of the biggest LCD makers in the market. But with that market slowly shifting over to OLED panels, JDI needs to adapt as well. In addition to investing in OLED panel development, it is now breaking into other businesses, like the sensor business. And its first product is an intriguing one. It has announced one of the few if not the first fingerprint sensor embedded not in a display but in transparent glass.
Almost all fingerprint scanners used in devices today, from phones to laptops to fingerprint readers, make use of silicon. This has the effect that such scanners cannot be transparent, limiting their use as seen by the problem of in-display fingerprint sensors. By using glass instead, JDI’s sensors can theoretically but used in almost any setting or design.
On a technological level, JDI pulled off this seemingly impossible feat by leveraging its Pixel Eyes technology already in use on its LCD touch screens. Pixel Eyes integrates the touch functionality directly into the glass substrate by detecting changes in the capacitance, that is, the amount of electric charge stored, when a finger touches the glass surface. JDI eventually developed it to detect even the recesses and ridges of fingertips, necessary for fingerprint detection, and, eventually into using a new capacitive transparent glass substrate.
JDI says that the new fingerprint sensor can be used, among other things, to replace the silicon-based sensors used in phones today. It gives no hint on whether there is a possibility of using it as part of the phone’s display, thereby solving the in-display fingerprint sensor problem from another angle. There will be some time to figure that out, as JDI only plans shipping the sensors commercially within the 2018 fiscal year, which ends in March 2019.