3 Sensor Technologies Giving Smartphones a New Makeover

Applied Tech Review | Thursday, April 29, 2021

The limitless and ever-evolving functionalities of smartphones can now be attributed to the advancements in sensor technology. Here's more to it.  

FREMONT, CA: Once upon a time, cell phones were only meant to be devices that facilitated communication through phone calls. Today, smartphones have changed the whole narrative. These smart devices are capable of doing a vast range of tasks, bringing an unmatched level of convenience to users. Sensors are one of the most significant building blocks of smartphones. Thus, many of the advanced features that figure in smartphones today are a direct result of hi-tech sensors. Smartphone-makers in the market, are actively promoting research and development of sensor technology. Many of the sensors in use today are proprietary technologies of leading smartphone companies, while researchers have developed many others. The rapid progress that sensor technology has made over the last decade has resulted in the development of highly functional sensors, giving rise to a wide range of applications. Three high-impact sensors that have the potential to make smartphones smarter are listed below.

• Fingerprint Sensors- On the Display

The use of fingerprint sensors in smartphones for the purpose of verification has become widely popular. Within the last few years, fingerprint sensors have become the norm. The trend is now shifting again, and the technology is taking a more sophisticated form. Traditionally placed either on the rear of the phones or the home button below the screen, the sensors are now entering the display. This is a result of the increasing screen sizes and decreasing bezels in smartphones. With customers demanding sleeker models, makers are now counting on in-display fingerprint sensors. These sensors are embedded into the display panel and read fingerprints by detecting the light reflected by the skin. These sensors also have other advanced capabilities, like identifying the patterns of veins in the user's hand. Currently a part of few models, within a year, the sensor might become ubiquitous.

• Time-of-Flight (ToF) Sensors in Cameras

In a quest to innovate, smartphone makers are now incorporating ToF sensors into their products. These sensors are used in cameras and work on the theory of emitting and detecting infrared lights to determine dimensions, distance, or depth. The sensor first emits a signal which then gets reflected after hitting a solid surface. With the help of a detector, the sensor then detects the signal to enable depth mapping. When incorporated into smartphones, these sensors enhance their capabilities by allowing imaging features. From object scanning to gesture scanning, ToF camera sensors can do it all. Initially, the scanning of objects used visualization technologies or RFID. These methods require ambient lighting. However, ToF sensors can work even in the dark, making them extremely advantageous. Additionally, the technology can also be used for enhancing indoor navigation using smartphones. Since the sensors have the ability to determine depth rapidly with high degrees of accuracy, coupled with the right algorithms, these can be developed into effective indoor navigation solutions. While high-end smartphones have already incorporated the sensors, budget smartphones might also embrace them within the next couple of years.

• Sensors to Enable AR Capabilities

The exciting technology of AR can be easily accessed using advanced smartphones. There are several valuable applications of AR, and when the technology is merged with smartphones, several capabilities can be unlocked. For smartphones to allow the AR experience, sensors have to be integrated and optimized. Most smartphones already come with GPS sensors as well as gyroscopes and accelerometers. By orchestrating these sensors and enabling accurate direction-related information, smartphones can easily make way for AR.

Apart from the above, smartphone makers have also developed high power camera sensors that enhance features like color detection, zooming, and object detection. With these enhancements through sensors, smartphones are becoming more and more potent every passing day. 

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