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New 3D image sensor for smartphone face recognition from Infineon

One trend in mobile communications is to unlock smartphones by 3D face recognition instead of fingerprint or PIN.

Making authentication more convenient and more secure, it may soon become indispensable for mobile payment applications and mobile ID.

Infineon Technologies claims its new 3D image sensor chip, with unlock-with-your-face feature, makes the process smarter, faster and more reliable.

Together with its innovation partner pmdtechnologies AG, Infineon has developed a new 3D image sensor in its REAL3 chip family, based on Time-of-flight (ToF) technology.

It uses the world’s smallest camera module for integration in smartphones with a footprint of less than 12 mm x 8 mm, including the receiving optics and VCSEL (Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Laser) illumination.

Market forecasts expect smartphones with 3D sensing functionality to increase from about 50 million units in the year 2017 to roughly 290 million units in 2019.

Compared to other 3D sensor principles, such as stereoscopic light or structured light approaches, Time-of-flight offers advantages in performance, size and power consumption of battery-operated mobile devices.

Two factors provide the camera’s range and measurement accuracy: the intensity of the emitted and reflected infrared light, and the pixel sensitivity of the 3D image sensor chip.

The REAL3 chip has 38,000 pixels with each pixel featuring the unique Suppression of Background Illumination (SBI) circuitry. It is tuned to work at 940 nm infrared light sources making the projected light invisible and improving the outdoor performance even further. Furthermore, the IRS238xC integrates a dedicated function to support Laser-Class-1 safety level of the complete solution.

Cameras of Infineon and pmdtechnologies are the only ToF-based depth cameras integrated in commercially available smartphones, says the company. They have convinced leading camera module makers for mobile phones and are proven for efficient volume production with high yield. In addition, they do not have to be re-calibrated during use.

Samples and demos of the new Infineon 3D image sensor chip are available and volume production is scheduled to start in Q4 2018. Software partners such as Sensible Vision Inc. and IDEMIA offer application software for user face detection and authentication.