• The fingerprint has evolved very little in the last 60 years. Until about 20 years ago, fingerprints were primarily used by law enforcement agencies to identify criminals. However, of late, fingerprints are being extensively used in civilian and commercial applications, but they are still two dimensional. A team of computer scientists from Michigan State University led by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur alumni Anil Jain has succeeded in building the first three-dimensional model of a human fingerprint named as fingerprint 'phantom'. Hence, now the fingerprints have reached the third dimension and they are faster and more accurate. This technology takes 2D image of a fingerprint and maps it to a 3D finger surface (fingerprint phantom).


    The image taken is two dimensional which can be easily distorted by pressure and can be confused by sweat and oil left on the glass. Hence, this new technology of converting a 2-D image into 3-D finger surface can minimize such confusions to a great extent, thereby boosting the accuracy of security systems. This technology makes use of a 3-D printer and produces a 3-D model of a human fingerprint from an original 2-D image. Presently, the vast majority of 47 million people in AFIS have a criminal record, and fingerprinting is closely associated with crime. Hence, this technology will allow law enforcement to create more accurate records of people’s fingerprints and not only make it easier to match fingerprints but will also lead to improvements in security.

    Take a quick preview of this unfathomably gorgeous technology in the video below:

    Anil Jain is currently a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering. He has earned his B.Tech degree from the Kanpur branch of the Indian Institute of Technology in 1969. He has completed his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Ohio State University in 1970 and 1973 respectively. This great technocrat owns six US patents on fingerprint matching currently to his name, and has written a number of books on bio-metrics and fingerprint/facial recognition.

    Imaging phantoms are common in the world of medical imaging. For example, to make sure an MRI machine or a CT scanner is working properly, it needs to first image an object of known dimensions and material properties. However, the ultimate goal of this newly developed technology is to have a precise fingerprint model with known properties and features that can be used to calibrate existing technology used to match fingerprints. Jain claims that tools like this would improve the overall accuracy of fingerprint-matching systems, which eventually leads to better security in applications ranging from law enforcement to mobile phone unlock. The major disadvantage of this technology is that presently this 3-D model does not possess the exact texture or feel of a real finger but it could advance fingerprint sensing and matching technology.


    Soon, however, fingerprinting could become simply another way of proving who you are. For example “Aadhar” project is working on assigning a unique identification number to each resident of India. While walking into an airport, libraries, or often in corporate offices and restricted areas, you have to show ID cards to gain access. With rapid 3D fingerprinting, we may be leaving cards at home and just showing our hands. Security checks at ballparks, schools, or hospitals could easily incorporate the new kind of scanning. That opens the technology to privacy concerns. What kind of information should be attached to your fingerprint? Who should have access to fingerprint databases? As privacy evolves in the 21st century, we may be less concerned with recording the identities of criminals and more concerned with making sure our identities are not criminalized. What are your thought pertaining to this new breakthrough in fingerprinting domain? Share with us your views in comments below.

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