Biometric fingerprinting could foil criminals, say Windsor profs

Researchers at the University of Windsor are working on a new technology they say could improve the way fingerprints are scanned for police, military and border services.
The new fingerprint technology reaches into the layers of the skin to create a 3-D image. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Researchers at the University of Windsor are working on a new technology they say could improve the way fingerprints are scanned for police, military and border services.

The group has built a biometric system that can scan a finger into a 3-D image 2 mm into the skin at the Institute for Diagnostic Imaging Research.

"What we do here is unlike current, existing fingerprint devices in market which are optical. We are talking about something so advanced...it's reconstructing fingerprint patterns from the surface of the skin. We are going to do this process from the internal layers," said Aryaz Baradarani, one of the team members working on the project.
People would have to place they're finger inside the box where their fingerprints will be scanned and an image created from 2mm into skin and not the surface. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

If someone's fingerprints are damaged through work, an accident or on purpose, the machine can still pick up the pattern, he said.

"For example criminals are simply able to manipulate the surface of the skin, for that reason we are actually planning to offer fingerprint patter not from the surface of the skin, but from internal layers," said Baradarani, who added this is something current optical fingerprint machines cannot do.

"It's important for security people...imagine people working in serious places like a nuclear power plant or borders or military sections," he said.

Fedar Seviaryn, who also works on the project, said initially the team started developing ultrasonic images of the skin for medical purposes, but it didn't take long to realize the technology could also apply to fingerprinting.

The Windsor University team has been working on the biometric fingerprinting technology for the past three years. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"The main difference from existing systems is that it can take an image of some structures inside the skin and that makes it a much more...solid, much more secure device," said Seviaryn.

So, for specialized facilities such as as the military, border crossings and police, the technology can work much better than existing ones.

"I believe that this technology will work very well in high-security areas," said Seviryn. "Of course it's a little more expensive than the existing one, but it provides much more higher level of security."

He said the second prototype they have built can already be put to work for basic use, even though it may not be the final version of the machine.

Seviryn said the group has presented the system to the FBI at a defence biometric conference in Washington, D.C., and will be showing it to the Canadian government this fall.

If the federal government likes the project the next step would be to put some sample machines in borders or airports just to random check people with this machine, said Baradarani.

"The current fingerprinting database used by the FBI has roughly 60 million fingerprint scans," said Baradarani. "But that's again from surface. If you're going to identify people with this technology we're going to have to make a large database and identify them based on these features."

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