Synaptics develops human interface solutions based on touch, display and biometrics technologies for a large range of mobile computing, PC, entertainment and other consumer electronic devices. Customers include companies such as Acer, Amazon, Asus, Dell, Google, HP, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, Sony Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE, BlackBerry and Toshiba. The products include touchpads, touchscreens, fingerprint ID and display integration technologies for devices including notebook PCs, PC peripherals, mobile devices, tablets and other consumer electronics.
Synaptics was founded as a neural network research company in 1986 by Kevin J. Kinsella, Gary Lynch, Lauren Yazolino, Federico Faggin (co-inventor of the microprocessor) and Carver Mead (VLSI pioneer). The company began to apply semiconductor hardware design techniques to a computing technology known as neural networks.
The company started shipping commercial products in 1995, with its flagship TouchPad interface for notebook PCs. The TouchPad is a touch-sensitive pad for notebooks or keyboards that senses the position of a user’s finger(s) on the surface to provide screen navigation, cursor movement, application control, and a platform for interactive input.
Synaptics went public in 2002 and is currently listed on the NASDAQ exchange. The IPO of 5 million common stock shares at a price of $11.00 per share received a 57% return at the close of Q1 2002.
On November 7, 2013, Synaptics completed its acquisition of Validity Sensors, a fingerprint sensor vendor based in San Jose, CA.
On June 10, 2014, Synaptics announced their acquisition of Renesas SP Drivers Inc., a Japanese company that specializes in chips that manage LCD displays. Synaptics purchased Renesas SP for approximately JPY48.5B ($475 million) for 100% of the company.
Synaptics products are based on capacitive sensing technology, as opposed to resistive touchscreen technologies. Capacitive touch sensing works by sensing the electrical properties of the finger(s) touching the sensor; a resistive touchscreen senses direct pressure between two clear electrical layers that are separated by a small space, requiring an amount of force. Capacitive touch sensing solutions are solid state, making them more robust than resistive solutions.
Synaptics's human interface solutions are currently based upon the following key technologies:
- Capacitive position sensing technology
- Capacitive force sensing technology
- Transparent capacitive position sensing technology
- Pattern recognition technology
- Mixed-signal integrated circuit technology
- Display systems and circuit technology
- Capacitive active pen technology
- Multi-touch technology
- Proprietary microcontroller technology
- ThinTouch technology
- Fingerprint sensing technology
In addition to these technologies, Synaptics develop firmware and device driver software that are incorporated into products to provide features, such as virtual scrolling, customizable tap zones, PalmCheck, EdgeMotion, and tapping and dragging of icons.
A touchpad is integrated into the majority of today's notebook computers. Synaptics' share for touchpads in the notebook PC market is in the 65-70% range.
Some of Synaptics' products are listed below:
- ClickPad – The ClickPad allows users to press down on the TouchPad itself to perform a left or right click.
- ClearPad – The ClearPad was the world's first clear capacitive touchscreen sensor for mobile devices. LG Electronics was the first to offer a mobile phone with this sensor with the LG Prada (KE850) in December 2006.
- Natural ID - Natural ID fingerprint identification solutions combine security for device login and online identity protection for consumer electronic devices. The portfolio is designed to address the needs for advanced security and user convenience for smartphones, tablets and notebook PCs.
- ForcePad - ForcePad solutions enable multi-finger control, with variable pressure detection in a button-free design that maximizes the gesture area.
- SecurePad - SecurePad enables all of the functionality of the TouchPad - scrolling, pointing, navigation, selection, but with the added function of an integrated area fingerprint sensor; enabling OEMs to integrate an area fingerprint sensor into the TouchPad.
- Gesture Suite (SGS) – SGS provides Synaptics TouchPad users a variety of gestures for cursor commands, available for Windows. One feature of the Suite is the Scrybe gesture workflows, announced in January 2010. Users launch the gesture window by tapping three fingers on the touchpad. The user can then trace a question mark gesture directly on the touchpad to open the browser, or draw an “@” sign to open a predefined email application. Or, instead of having to cut and paste text from a document into a browser-based search engine box, users can simply highlight the term and draw a question mark with their finger to trigger an automatic web search on the query.