As the world transitions to a digital economy, biometrics authentication represents a prerequisite for higher levels of security and data privacy. France-based Isorg announced it has closed a third round of financing to support the deployment of its full-screen fingerprint-on-display sensor module for multi-finger smartphone authentication and to develop more secure biometric recognition systems.
A spin-off from the CEA-Liten research institute in 2010, Isorg has developed the organic photodetector (OPD) technology, which integrates printed photodiodes on different substrates to enable large-area image sensors. It is compatible with plastic or glass substrates using TFT technology or CMOS image sensors.
To support its next phase of development, Isorg has closed a €16 million Series C financing round led by industrial investors Sumitomo Chemical and Mitsubishi, bringing the company’s total capital raised so far to €47.8 million. The funding round included the participation of Greece-based Integrated Systems Development, five new French investors represented by venture capital firm Financières Fonds Privé, as well as Bpifrance, New Science Venture, CEA Investment, and Sofimac Group.
In an interview with EE Times Europe, Nicolas Bernardin, director of business development at Isorg, said, “It’s a major step forward to see legacy investors renew their trust and to convince big industrial players.”
Fundraising is not only about money but also about getting technological support. Since 2013, Isorg and Sumitomo Chemicals have been collaborating and, in 2019, they sealed an agreement to develop OPD products for use as smartphone fingerprint sensors and hybrid organic CMOS image sensors. “For Isorg, it’s a strong message about technological maturity and the ability to penetrate markets,” said Bernardin.
Isorg said it will use the funds to accelerate the commercial deployment of its OPD technology. When asked about its benefits, Bernardin said OPD allows the production of very thin, flexible, easy to integrate and easy to recycle modules. “For the security and ID market, we were able to obtain a very high robustness, especially in strong light conditions,” so that modules can be used both for indoor and outdoor environments.
Multi-finger, palm, and vein recognition
In response to OEMs’ and end-users’ demand for a higher level of smartphone security and privacy, Isorg designed a fingerprint-on-display (FoD) module that supports one- to four-finger authentication across the entire dimensions of the 6-inch smartphone display, or even larger. Such multi-finger authentication capability aims to strengthen security for mobile banking and payments, personal health monitoring, and remote home control applications.
Isorg said its FoD module is compatible with flexible and foldable displays for smartphones and wearables. It is thinner than 300 µm and supports curved-edged phone displays with flexible polyimide-substrate sensor.
In the next few months, Isorg said it plans to develop palm size modules. When the stakes are high (e.g. border control, criminal police), palm recognition could be more secure and reliable than other biometric methods. “A palm scanner is the next generation, and many people are working on it because of the unique parameters of the palm,” said Bernardin.
Similarly, Isorg aims to design a vein recognition module.
The vein network is a unique biometric identifier. “Instead of your fingerprint, we can recognize and authenticate you through your vein network,” said Bernardin. “The sensor we validated is very sensitive in the visible range, but we have developed a very sensitive sensor in the near infrared. At these wavelengths, we can enter the human body […] and treat biometric authentication from the vein network.”
Beyond security, there are also plenty of applications in health care.
Made in France
In 2017, Isorg opened a manufacturing facility in Limoges to produce OEM organic photonic sensors and offer services from proof-of-concept to mass production for opto-electronics systems.
“The strong historical wish, always defended by Jean-Yves Gomez, our CEO and a French industrial player, is to have Made in France products resulting from years of efforts,” said Bernardin.
Isorg has “absolutely” no intention to transfer manufacturing from France or Europe to Asia, he insisted. “Of course, if you look at the supply chain, when you explain that you target and penetrate consumer markets like smartphones, everybody on Earth knows that +99% of manufacturing for smartphones is located in Asia.” It is, however, not an issue to have subcomponents manufactured around the world and assembled in Asia. “It’s the direction.”
When can we expect Isorg’s module integrated in smartphones? Isorg has been discussing with the “big smartphone makers” for a couple of years, but “it is always very uncomfortable for me to bet on a date, because in January 2020, I was exhibiting at CES in Las Vegas and we had strong commitment from big players.” The Covid-19 pandemic, however, took the world by surprise and unfolded extremely rapidly. It literally paralyzed the economy and “significantly reduced the activity and reactivity of our contacts,” said Bernardin. 2022, however, remains an attainable goal, he conceded.
In 2018, Isorg raised €24M in a Series C financing round to conduct the different qualification steps of its production site based in Limoges. In January 2020, the company’s CEO, Jean-Yves Gomez, told us that he expected to launch the mass production of its modules within the year.
Nonetheless, the Covid-19 outbreak had an immediate negative impact on demand and postponed Isorg’s mass production plans. The qualification of the mass production line is almost complete, said Bernardin. “It can happen very quickly, but it’s market driven and Covid-19 has been a huge challenge.”
On the Limoges site, Isorg has a Gen 3.5 (780 × 650 mm) manufacturing line for image sensor production with supply of TFT backplane.
Isorg is currently targeting two different markets: the smartphone market and security/ID market.
A major milestone was recently achieved when Isorg’s Fingerprint Acquisition Profile (FAP) 10 module obtained the FBI certification. The FAP 10 module, which is manufactured by printing organic photodiodes on a thin-film transistor (TFT) backplane, is now approved for use in security applications, in particular in mobile device identification for access control at airports and other facilities where the highest security levels are required.
Isorg’s FAP 10 is approved for one finger authentication, with a surface area of 0.5’’ to 0.65’’ (1.27-1.65cm). The company now expects to receive FBI certification for larger area biometrics modules, up to four fingers (FAP 60).
“Without the FBI certification, nothing can happen,” said Bernardin. “Even though we had very good results with our fingerprint modules, each time we started to discuss with customers, their first question was ‘Are you FDA certified?’ It’s the sesame to enter the market.”
Isorg is the first to gain security approval for an OPD fingerprint sensor.
Local & global presence
Headquartered in Limoges, Isorg has a pilot line and a dedicated application team at the CEA-Liten institute. The startup also has a R&D team in Grenoble, runs a small R&D line, compatible with 8-inch silicon wafers, in Bordeaux, and has sales and application offices in Hong Kong.
In the coming months, Isorg plans to open an office in Asia.
Isorg said it aims to deploy a global sales and applications engineering workforce. The objective is to employ bout 100 people by the end of 2021.
>> This article was originally published on our sister site, EE Times Europe.
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