May 6, 2015 -
Four British postgraduate students have successfully built a pocket-sized fingerprint scanner designed to help individuals in the developing world get improved access to healthcare, according to a report by the Business Insider.
After realizing that most fingerprint scanners were designed for westernized applications, such as commercial and criminal justice use, the team set out to develop a scanner that would be “low cost, ruggedised, wireless, low energy, and could work well in difficult field conditions,” Simprints co-founder Toby Norman said.
The scanner is able to wirelessly sync with a health worker’s smartphone via an app to access and update a patient’s offline health records, which have previously been downloaded and stored in a local database on the smartphone.
The system ensures that even in regions with limited mobile connectivity, updates to the records will eventually be synced with the central database once Internet connectivity is established.
“The Simprints technology can integrate with any phone that currently has Bluetooth and we’re focusing on the Android platform because the Android platform is the largest growing mobile platform currently in the developing world,” Simprints co-founder Tristram Norman said.
Health workers in remote areas find it difficult to identify those clients without a birth certificate or passport, forcing administration to maintain their records on paper.
The team said Simprints’ technology will allow health workers to better monitor vaccination levels as well as effectively maintain civil registration records by effectively monitoring births and deaths.
The team is currently testing five separate scanner models with various NGOs before it decides on a final choice to use in a large-scale pilot program to be rolled out in Bangladesh next January.
Simprints will partner with BRAC and the Johns Hopkins Global m-Health Initiative in the Gaibandha District of Northern Bangladesh for the pilot.
The team hopes that their next prototype will resolve the current issues of conducting an accurate fingerprint identification of infants, who have fewer unique identifiers on their fingerprints, and manual laborers whose rough hands make it difficult to get an accurate print.
The team has been employing various strategies to resolve these issues, such as connecting an infant’s record to the fingerprints of their parents and enrolling multiple fingerprints for manual laborers, as well as the elderly, to boost matching accuracy.
Simprints hopes that by the time of mass production – which could happen as early as a year from now – it will be able to provide the scanners for a price of under USD $50.