Himax Compares Smartphone ID Solutions, 3D Sensing

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Himax quaterly earnings report presents the company's vision of 3D sensing market:

"Leading Android smartphone makers are exploring various 3D sensing technologies, namely structured light, active stereo camera (ASC) and, to a lesser extent, time-of-flight (ToF), trying to strike a good balance of cost, specifications and application. More software players are entering the ecosystem to develop 3D sensing applications beyond the existing applications, namely facial recognition, online payment and camera performance enhancement.

Himax has been working with an industry leading fingerprint solution provider to develop an under-display optical fingerprint product in the last two years, targeting smartphones using OLED displays. Himax provides a customized low-power image sensor in the solution. The Company is pleased to announce that the solution has entered into mass production with a major Android smartphone OEM for their new flagship model with shipment expected in the coming months. The CMOS image sensor used in the solution will have a notably higher ASP than the Company’s traditional display driver IC products.

SeekingAlpha: In Q&A session, Himax CEO Jordan Wu gives more details anout its optical fingerprint business:

"It appears to be to enjoy pretty good momentum right now in the Android market. Okay, because of cost issue. The business can change overnight in how they are, firstly, the cost, I’m talking about the total solution, which includes most importantly the CMOS image sensor, and as I said optics and certainly algorithm chip combined at the module. Initially, when the technology was promoted, we’re talking about $10 in total, but now, we are seeing $10 plus in total.

Now, we’re seeing the total cost is now coming down to $10 or even below. And because of certain cost saving measures adopted by module houses, in particular, in the optics side. So for that reason, again, customers want full screen design and they don’t want their capacity touch to be on the back, which is not convenient to use. So for full screen design, if you feel structured light too expensive, ToF is also quite expensive and even ASC is relatively expensive because ASC now, we’re still talking about $10 plus and this thing, fingerprint is already below $10.

So for that reason, it seems to be picking up momentum. However, I will have to say that the limitation of fingerprint is that it can do nothing out of the fingerprint, whether it’s all three kinds of 3D sensing, you can have a lot of other applications beyond unlocking your smartphone and payment. Right. So I think that is the most important thing. And certainly, under glass fingerprint, one reason why it is getting traction by it, it is not really becoming overwhelming. One of the issues is it still suffers from its lesser satisfactory accuracy, meaning when you try to unlock your phone, the failure rate still is too high. And when it fails, you have to – the user will have to key in the password, which people hate, right.

So in comparison, 3D sensing or face authentication, the accuracy level is a lot higher. And so they are certainly a big wildcard will be our first launch in expected September, right, in the new phones, whether they can introduce interesting attractive new features, application to 3D sensing. But I think it is still slightly too early to tell who is going to dominate which segment of the market as of today.

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