NEC infant fingerprinting system approaches move from vaccination delivery to legal ID
ID Day was held this past Saturday, September 16, in recognition of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16’s target 9; to provide universal birth registration for children under 5 years old by 2030.
One of the key projects in that effort is the development of fingerprint biometric systems that will work with infants. NEC reported success with a clinical trial earlier this year, and moved on to a pilot at a hospital in preparation for a wider rollout.
The system designed to support early childhood vaccinations is part of a broader effort to provide legal identity to newborns and enable their identities to be safely authenticated, NEC spokesperson Joseph Jasper told Biometric Update in an email.
Originally, NEC considered other biometric modalities, such as iris, face or vein recognition, but also whether this is a problem best addressed with the emerging capabilities of contactless fingerprint biometrics.
During an ID4Africa Livecast held in 2021, NEC asked governments across Africa for feedback on the relative merits of contactless and traditional contact-based fingerprints. Representatives of eight countries told the company that they would prefer contact fingerprints, in spite of the Covid pandemic.
The presence of sebum, an oily substance that protects newborns’ skin from drying out, makes feature extraction challenging. NEC’s research indicates that some newborns are not bathed for their first month of life.
NEC also observed a divide between urban and rural populations, necessitating onsite research.
The company settled on voice biometrics for parents or caregivers, and fingerprint biometrics for newborns, enabling secure identity verification with little or no change to healthcare procedures, according to Jasper. He says the result is the first trial of a vaccination management prototype system utilizing different modalities for children and their caregivers.
None of the children participating in the demonstration experiment passed away in their first 28 days of life from causes preventable through vaccination, Jasper says.
The same system as ensures correct vaccine delivery, by establishing the child’s place of birth and caregiver relationship, can also be used to assign national identity, and then used for the delivery of other public services, like for health and education.
“In the future, NEC would like to contribute to the advancement of social systems as a leading system integrator of biometric authentication solutions that ensure the well-being of families throughout the world,” writes Jasper in the email.
NEC also acknowledged the contributions of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Nagasaki University Institute of Tropical Medicine (NUITM) to the ethical implementation and review of the research.