In more than For 100 years, registering people’s fingerprints has involved them pressing their fingertips against a surface. Originally involved this ink, but has since moved to sensors embedded in scanners at airports and phone screens. The next stage of fingerprinting does not involve touching anything at all.
So-called contactless fingerprint technology uses your phone’s camera and image processing algorithms to capture people’s fingerprints. Hold your hand in front of the camera lens and the software can identify and record all lines and vertebrae at your fingertips. The technology, which has been under development for years, is poised to become more widespread in the real world. This includes the use of the police – a step that worries civil liberties and privacy groups.
Contactless fingerprints work through multiple processes, says Chace Hatcher, vice president of technology at Telos, a fingerprint technology company. “The underlying component of this is an image processing algorithm that works with computer vision principles to transform the photograph of fingers into a machine-matchable fingerprint,” says Hatcher.
To accurately collect a person’s fingerprints, a person’s hand must be about five inches away from a phone’s camera, Hatcher says. From here, the company’s machine learning algorithms identify your fingertips and process the image. The system, Hatcher says, is able to detect the combs that define your fingerprint by identifying shadows and lighter areas. “We need a camera that has autofocus on it,” Hatcher says. It is possible to select fingerprints using a phone camera with a resolution as low as two megapixels. The result is a traditional fingerprint image, which can then be matched with existing databases.
Last week, Telos was announced as a joint winner of a US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) competition, which so on the performance of contactless fingerprint systems and how they can be used by law enforcement. According to a report from the industry title Biometric updatethe results show that the technology is ready for a wider rollout.
Contactless fingerprints are just one part of a fast-growing biometrics industry that sells ways to collect and process the data our bodies create. Biometrics can include face recognition, the way you walk, patterns of veins in your wrist, and the way you sound. The technologies are used, among other things, to replace passwords and help prove your identity when you open a new bank account. Biometrics is a big business and some estimates say the market may be worth it $ 127 billion by 2030.
Despite the rise in biometric technology, it may prove to be controversial. Theft or spoofing of fingerprints and other biometric information may lead to fraud and identity theft. Some legislators in Europe are pushing for a ban on the use of biometric technology to identify people in public spaces – and say such surveillance technology could be “the end of anonymity.”
Shweta Mohandas, a lawyer working on privacy issues at the Nonprofit Center for Internet and Society in India, says that any new technology should face privacy and harm impact assessments before they are widely used. “More worrying issues would be when these technologies will be imported into developing economies that have neither standards in place nor robust data protection laws to protect individuals from harm that may occur,” Mohandas said.