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NIST, FBI research contactless fingerprint devices


National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been working with the biometrics industry to deliver fast, touchless fingerprint readers to the marketplace.

Before contactless fingerprint technology can be widely adopted, NIST tests the sensors to ensure that they work with the millions of existing contact-based fingerprint records.

NIST has partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Biometric Center of Excellence to conduct research on contactless fingerprinting devices.

The agencies are working toward developing common requirements, metrics and open testing methods for touchless fingerprint technology that will support future certification for purchase on the Government Certified Products lists.

Through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), researchers at NIST are working with a range of contactless fingerprint devices from leading vendors including MorphoTrak and 3M.

“The largest challenge we are facing is that this new technology produces images that are fundamentally different than existing images,” said NIST biometrics senior scientist Michael Garris.

The elastic nature of skin causes traditional fingerprints to contain natural distortion from the pressure of placing the finger on the fingerprinting surface, while contactless fingerprints are pressure free and look different, said Garris.

There is a wide range of sensor types being used for contactless fingerprint capture and each one of them are significantly different from the sensors used to obtain contact-based fingerprints, so the touchless scans have different image properties.

“It is very difficult for NIST or technology developers to address these issues independently,” said Garris. “The CRADA provides a trustworthy environment for industry to come together and openly work with NIST.”

The organization is developing various methods, metrics and targets to test contactless devices to determine if they are reliable, accurate and can work with legacy systems, starting with the development of models to measure image fidelity on the new systems.

These systems include creating calibration patterns that can be used as optical targets to determine resolution, focus, contrast, spatial consistency and other properties of fingerprints.

NIST researchers are testing different synthetic materials including aluminum, polycarbonate and NIST-developed materials in an effort to duplicate the pigmentation and light-diffusion properties of human tissue.

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