Hong Kong researchers develop technology to improve fingerprint ID

Researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University have developed a technology that aims to improve fingerprint identification by making it more accurate, affordable and hygienic, according to a report by South China Morning Post.

They have patented a contactless three-dimensional (3D) identification system, which is more affordable than the method currently used.

Unlike other 3D fingerprint scanners, the system developed by Dr Ajay Kumar, associate professor at PolyU’s department of computing, can successfully detect and measure the height and orientation of minutiae in fingerprints such as ridges that abruptly end and single ridges that break into two.

“[Existing] technologies have not been able to recover or match those unique features,” Dr. Kumar said, adding that current fingerprint systems can cost around $2,000 and require several cameras.

Dr. Kumar’s scanner uses a single $100 camera and three low-cost LED lights to illuminate different parts of fingerprints.

Once they are captured, the images are sent to a computer that uses the patented ­algorithms to create 3D finger templates of the minutiae ­features.

According to Dr. Kumar, the technology can be applied to any situation where existing fingerprint technology is used, such as immigration control points, criminal investigations, access points for restricted areas, and ­forensic analysis.

Dr. Kumar is hoping to bring the technology to market, beginning with the Asia Pacific region.

“Asia has the largest biometric market because of [the populations of] India and China,” he said, adding that mainland companies have already shown some interest.

The PolyU prototype is much smaller than current 3D fingerprint scanners, such as an Octopus card reader, and Dr. Kumar hopes to reduce the size even further so that the scanner can be integrated into smartphones.

Current contact-based scanning technology typically generate less accurate results ­due to dirty, dry or moist fingers.

PolyU’s contactless technology also address hygienic concerns, particularly in places where fingerprints are regularly scanned such as at immigration control points.

In addition, the contactless technology alleviates the high risk that fingerprints may be lifted off the scanners and duplicated.

Recent test results find that PolyU fingerprint technology is 96.7 percent accurate, which is considerably higher than existing two-dimensional technology which has an accuracy of 94.5 percent.

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