July 19, 2013

Fingerprint recognition devices – Ins and Outs Pros and Cons

In recent years fingerprint recognition technology has made huge strides. Even before fingerprint scanners came into existence, fingerprints played a major role in forensic science. Since everyfingerprint is unique, identifying criminals was an easy process, provided it matched with their criminal list of fingerprint database. This similar technology has now further moved forward and is rampantly being used as a Fingerprint Recognition Device which is a biometric device.

Fingerprint recognitiondevices work on some simple principles; firstly storing information of a person’s finger e.g. ridges, loops, branches on a finger. Secondly comparing the persons fingerprint with the already stored scanned image. Once the person is identified through the fingerprint scan, the authentication process is complete. These scans or lines and ridges on a person’s finger can be thought of as a password that needs authentication to identify a person. The stored scanned image is unique, since it is also understood that there are a few lines and bridges on the finger that change over a period of time.

When you think of information stored in a fingerprint scanner, think computer mathematical algorithms. One particular reason why the fingerprint scanner cannot be tampered with is because the fingerprint image stored in its database is not an image. Instead it is a set of mathematical algorithms stored and accessed when a person scans their fingerprint onto the device. Fingerprint recognition technology over the years has proved to be the most widely used biometric system simply because it is easy to use, efficient, gives accurate attendance information and is (maybe) impossible to tamper with.

Fingerprint scanners today are widely used in crime investigation, security as well as attendance purposes. In a criminal investigation scenario, it takes in the fingerprint scan and compares it with its extensive database of stored fingerprints. Fingerprint recognition devices have cut down cost and time taken to find criminals who are responsible for a crime. Unlike how we see on investigation serials and movies, where a fingerprint taken is matched over every other fingerprint in the database till a match is found. This process takes time, and accuracy of the results is not a guarantee, although success results are good. There are several hindrances to a 100% success fingerprint scan result like smudging of images that make fingerprint scan picture overlay and identifying it a tad bit difficult. Stealing of scanned fingerprint image data is also possible in this case, although almost rare, but in criminal investigation this is an act that cannot be ruled out.

A little detailed understanding of the fingerprint recognition scanner will erase all doubts, if any, about the device and its accuracy. Everyone understands that fingerprints are unique and there are a few fingerprint features that remain the same. These specific fingerprint features are known as minutiae, and this is what a fingerprint scanner distinguishes the identity of an individual. These minutiae are stored as complex mathematical algorithms in the fingerprint scanner, and not just images. Once an individual scans their fingerprint, the fingerprint recognition device checks relative placement of the minutiae (fingerprint features). The fingerprint recognition device triggers a match print when it detects enough number of minutiae patterns that are similar to the recently scanned image and the algorithms stored in its system. The number of similar minutiae patterns however could differ from other scanners, since it depends largely on the number that it is programmed to.

The fingerprint recognition device might tick mark every box in your ‘advantages of fingerprint scanner’ list. However although it might sound like an indispensable method, it seems that it is not all that fool-proof. In fact there are several ways that you can fool fingerprint recognition devices, making it an increasing importance that these fingerprint scannersare more rigid especially if used as an identifying system. For e.g. users can easily activate a fingerprint scanner with a simple print of an individual’s finger, or even use a gelatin print mold that the scanner recognises and place it over a finger. In severe cases, a criminal could even cut the finger of an individual and use it to trigger the fingerprint recognition scanner.

These are some reasons why it is essential for fingerprint recognition device manufacturing companies to come up with much robust systems. Fingerprint scanners that use a combination of fingerprint scan and a pin code to recognise an individual are great ideas and seem to be the future of these biometric devices. For if a criminal grabs hold of an individual’s fingerprint feature either through a scan or gelatin mold, there is no way their fingerprint could be altered. In other words, information of the individual can be easily accessed by the criminal. It is constant reinvention that will keep criminals from cracking thefingerprint scannerscode.

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