Synaptics supports hybrid office scenarios with diverse solutions

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The pandemic has changed people's daily lives and work patterns, and you can see the trends from the latest applications Synaptics showcased at Computex 2023: A universal docking station with multiple connectivity ports (HDMI, USB, and DisplayPort), a wireless docking station with the wireless charging function, and a human presence detection (HPD) solution implemented with Edge AI technologies.

These innovations reflect the growing trend of hybrid office scenarios that support the collaboration of on-site/remote employees, and the coexistence of office and personal devices that reflect the rise of bring your own device (BYOD) policies. Protecting personal privacy and confidential information is also increasingly emphasized. All these demands drive the innovation of PC and peripheral device designs and functions.

In a hybrid office, seamless communication and collaboration across the entire team, while maintaining productivity and work efficiency, are major challenges faced by many businesses. For IT managers in these organizations, the ability to provide highly flexible PCs and peripheral devices is crucial.

In addition to managing various wired devices using a single universal docking station that can accommodate PCs with almost any operating system, wireless docking stations are also expected to be in demand. Synaptics collaborated with the major PC brand Lenovo to develop a dedicated wireless docking station for laptops. It not only wirelessly connects to 4K displays with a 60Hz bandwidth but also supports wireless charging according to the Qi specification. This is particularly suitable for future mobile office application scenarios, whether on desks or in conference rooms. Users can enjoy the freedom from cable constraints and transition easily between office and home locations, resulting in increased efficiency and flexibility.

One of the most eye-catching innovations demonstrated by Synaptics was the HPD solution enabled by the company's ultra-low-power AI SoC and proprietary algorithms. The algorithms take the signal from the built-in cameras of laptops (or external cameras for desktops) and use it to track the user's line of sight to determine their presence and turn off the screen to save power. It also provides privacy protection by closing the screen or blurring the displayed information when unauthorized individuals approach, preventing the leakage of confidential business information.

The HPD solution comes from the acquisition of Emza Visual Sense, a visual sensing solution provider, in October 2022. The technology has already been adopted by branded laptops, and more products incorporating this technology are expected to be released by the end of this year or next year. In the future, such solutions may also be implemented in devices such as ATMs that require the protection of personal confidential information.

"AI opens up new and exciting possibilities for technology and you're going to see it in applications you would not expect," said Saleel Awsare, Senior VP and GM, PC & Peripherals Division at Synaptics. "Synaptics sees Edge AI as a key factor for product differentiation and we will bring AI into various solutions to deliver a better user experience."

While adding new solutions such as HPD with Edge AI, Synaptics will also keep improving core technologies such as touchpads and fingerprint sensors to support the hybrid workforce.

The touchpads on the latest laptops are significantly larger than in previous years, to match the large screen with a small bezel. A bigger pad means more area to cursor navigate as well as to do gestures. At Computex 2023, Synaptics announced that it has combined its S9A0H NIST SP800-193 touch controller with Boréas Technologies' piezo haptics technology to deliver a high-performance trackpad module. The module provides OEMs with both force sensing and excellent haptic feedback while enabling thin and light touchpads with a seamless transition from a large touch-enabled area to the chassis with a consistent click sensation across 100% of the active surface.

In terms of fingerprint sensor solutions, "Historically the fingerprint sensor was a hole in the palm rest of the laptop, but now they're trying to do a cleaner design, putting it somewhere on the keyboard," Awsare said. "Every OEM has its own flavor. Some people will integrate it with the power button, and some have a fingerprint key around. In this area, we service all those different designs, we could provide a sensor, or we could do a complete module, we have a unique IP for the fingerprint sensor and how we do the molding process. Now our competitors don't have that IP. So they'll have a much more expensive manufacturing process."

Despite all the market forecasts that may not be optimistic for 2023, Synaptics maintains a positive outlook on its future, "Maybe this year is going to be slow, but there will be a super-cycle of refresh coming." Awsare added, "Many companies may stop investing during a downturn, but we believe that continuous investment in the future is crucial. We see many new use cases and demands in the post-pandemic era, together with a sea change in how people are using or interacting with their devices. Synaptics provides a lot of products for the human-machine interface of devices, and now we are really focused on enabling AI on the edge, we want to make sure we give people a very good user experience.

Saleel Awsare, Senior VP and GM, PC & Peripherals Division at Synaptics.

Saleel Awsare, Senior VP and GM, PC & Peripherals Division at Synaptics.