The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by connected vehicles  and growing importance of technologies such as contactless fingerprint technology, facial recognition, iris recognition, palm vein recognition, and voice recognition. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.2 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in Automotive: Contactless authentication.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

290+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over 619,000 patents, there are 290+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, smart car seats, tyre sensors, and predictive maintenance systems are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Acoustic vehicle signalling devices, brake temperature monitoring, and autonomous parking are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are disc brake actuators and AI-assisted dimming, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for IoT in the automotive industry

Contactless authentication is a key innovation area in IoT

Contactless or touchless access control allows quick and secure access to a vehicle without the need for physical contact. Frictionless or contactless door entry and access control technologies such as biometrics, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), RFID, and smartphone keyless entry are increasingly being chosen as the preferred entry options.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of contactless authentication.

Key players in contactless authentication – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to contactless authentication

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Thales 116 Unlock company profile
Vodafone Group 112 Unlock company profile
Apple 66 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 31 Unlock company profile
Gigsky 30 Unlock company profile
Nokia 28 Unlock company profile
Network-1 Technologies 24 Unlock company profile
MC Familiengesellschaft mbH 23 Unlock company profile
Huawei Investment Holding 21 Unlock company profile
Deutsche Telekom 17 Unlock company profile
STMicroelectronics 17 Unlock company profile
KnowRoaming 15 Unlock company profile
Pismo Labs Technology 13 Unlock company profile
Qualcomm 13 Unlock company profile
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson 11 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 10 Unlock company profile
LiveU 10 Unlock company profile
Broadcom 9 Unlock company profile
Huizhou TCL Mobile Communication 9 Unlock company profile
Safran 8 Unlock company profile
Canon 7 Unlock company profile
Icomera 7 Unlock company profile
SIMBLION 7 Unlock company profile
Legend Holdings 6 Unlock company profile
Kia 5 Unlock company profile
Hyundai Motor Group 5 Unlock company profile
Honeywell International 5 Unlock company profile
Sca Ipla Holdings 5 Unlock company profile
SK C and C 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Thales currently holds 116 filed patents in contactless authentication for the automotive industry segment. The company is engaged in the development, manufacture, and trading of contactless authentication. Other innovators in contactless authentication for the automotive industry are Vodafone Group, Apple, and Samsung Group. 

To further understand how IoT is disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Automotive.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.