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Tackling the infant ID problem with fingerprint biometrics



A team of researchers from the Michigan State University (MSU) is advocating the adoption of fingerprint biometrics for children of all age groups as part of efforts to tackle the problem of lack of official identification for children, which has often hampered the delivery of government services and access to medical care.

According to an article by MSU Today, the research led by renowned biometrics expert Anil Jain, an MSU Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering, began in 2014. Advances in the team’s work have come just ahead of increased attention around the world on vaccinations due to the pandemic.

After first developing a fingerprint system that worked well for toddlers one year and older, the team is now looking to extend the use of biometrics to include children of all ages with a high possibility of reducing suffering and deaths of children around the world.

One of the research team’s hallmark achievements is the development of a high-resolution child fingerprint reader which it designed alongside a specialized biometric matching algorithm. The device captured fingerprints of children at 1900ppi, which were still recognizable one year after, the article noted. The open-source high-resolution biometric scanner developed by Jain’s team can be built from widely-available components for around $80.

“My team of graduate and postdoctoral students have developed a system for digitally scanning an infant’s fingerprint that can be accurately recognized at least a year later. This system allows for accurate digital records, which is imperative to ensuring safety not only from the virus but other vaccine preventable diseases as well. Despite efforts of international health organizations and NGOs, children are still dying because it’s been believed that it wasn’t possible to use body traits such as fingerprints to identify children. We’ve just demonstrated that it is indeed possible,” the MSU article quoted Prof Jain as saying.

The research, conducted in India, has also been hailed by identity experts as a milestone in efforts to solve the problem of child identification, as highlighted by Dr. Joseph Atick, executive chairman of digital identity movement ID4Africa.

“The research of Jain and his team is unique in its rigor and in the promise that it embodies. Solving the infant ID problem through fingerprints will have profound consequences to the development agenda as a whole and to civil registration, child protection and health management, in particular. It will give today’s invisible children in the developing world a legal identity by tracing them to their origin, enabling them to assert their rights and to be fully included in society,” said Dr. Atick.

The test showed a 95 percent true acceptance rate after 3 months, 90 percent after six months, and 85 percent after 12 months for infants enrolled at 2 to 3 months of age, and a false acceptance rate set at 0.1 percent.

This infant biometric research project led by Professor Jain was in the spotlight at ID4Africa 2019 in South Africa.

Apart from capturing a child’s fingerprints for the purpose of accessing medical records, it can also support systems for civil registry enrollment, lifetime identification, and child nutrition, the article stated.

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