Using Fingerprints to fight TB

November 14, 2012 - 

Operation Asha, a Nonprofit NGO, is fighting the spread of tuberculosis in India using a biometric terminal you can build at home.

In conjunction with Microsoft Research, Operation ASHA has assembled a portable, cost-effective and efficient biometric system called eCompliance, using a portable computer or tablet, an SMS modem, fingerprint reader and open source software.

The purpose of these terminals is to administer treatment to those affected by Tuberculosis living in slums in India, and to ensure that medication is taken regularly. This practice, called Directly Observed Therapy (DOT), is among the most effective ways to fight tuberculosis in the third-world, and accounts for nearly half of the World Health Organization’s funding initiative for its global plan to stop tuberculosis.

A large issue when treating tuberculosis is that irregular treatment leads to mutated strains and drug resistance, which has become increasingly difficult to detect and to treat. According to a recent report, previous systems for administering DOT to those affected by tuberculosis have produced some misleading statistics in terms of treatment regularity and completion. Operation Asha’s biometric system of tracking dosages and treatment has changed this trend.

“Health data can be fudged,” Shelly Batra, president of Operation ASHA said in the report. “A fingerprint can’t be fudged.”

According to Batra, fingerprinting has lowered the dosage default rate to 1.5 per cent, and she now wants to replace the computers with smartphones.

Using a netbook computer, a Digital Persona fingerprint reader and an SMS Modem (with a 1-year subscription) costs less than $400 altogether, according to an Operation ASHA presentation.

By making the transition to mobile, the cost of the device drops by over 40%.

The software used was developed in partnership with Microsoft Research and is available freely online on their website.

You can learn more about Operation ASHA at

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About Adam Vrankulj

Adam Vrankulj is an editor for His background consists of online news writing, editing and content marketing. Adam has written for, BlogTO and was the editor and curator for the nextMEDIA and CIX Source publications. He has a degree in journalism and is passionate about science, technology and social innovation. Contact Adam, or follow him at @adamvrankulj