NIST N2N Challenge shows progress towards operator-free rolled fingerprint enrollment

The assistance of a trained device operator may soon not be necessary for obtaining high-quality rolled fingerprints, due to improvements in the technology, according to a new report from NIST.

The “NIST Interagency Report (NISTIR) 8210, Nail to Nail Fingerprint Challenge: Prize Analysis” (PDF) describes how methods used in the IARPA-sponsored N2N challenge could enable law enforcement to collect complete fingerprints more quickly and economically.

“One of the competitors brought a solution that can provide images at the capture speed, reliability and typical quality level of the traditional, operator-assisted system,” said NIST’s Elham Tabassi, one of the report’s co-authors. “The one caveat is that someone was watching and providing feedback to the user from a distance.”

Most applications of fingerprint recognition collect only prints from the flat surface or bottom of finger, while collecting high-quality complete or “nail to nail” prints is challenging, and generally requires an operator to physically grasp and guide the subject’s fingers.

“The challenge’s overall results show that the winning device is ready to produce images,” Tabassi said. “The remaining issue is how to ensure that the device can produce high-quality prints without the verbal feedback from a moderator.”

The NIST report is a resource for designing and evaluating the performance of automated fingerprint capture devices, according to Tabassi. Both NIST officials and industry participants said the creation of public latent fingerprint data sets is one of the key benefits of the challenge. Raw fingerprint data from 200 consenting participants will be made available from NIST and IARPA through the N2N Fingerprint Challenge website.

Companies recognized for strong performance in the challenge include Green Bit and IDEMIA.

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