Research at the University of Warwick may one day lead to fingerprint biometric access systems far superior to that of current generation devices.
The nemesis of fingerprint recognition equipment comes from the distortions introduced by individuals who press their fingers on the reader with varying amount of force. This non-linear stretching forms a major source of noise that can significantly impair accuracy.The result is a real-world equal error rate of 3 to 4 percent from even the best systems, which is unacceptable for installations requiring more than a casual level of security. (Wired Science: The equal error rate is when the sensitivity of a test is adjusted to the point where the proportion of false-positive results equals the proportion of false-negative results.)
Enter Warwick Warp, the brainchild of three British computer scientists. The scientist have come up with a system that recognizes the distortions that occur from the varying application of force.
The company's algorithm filters out the environmental distortion and then unwarps the contours of the skin. The result is a consistent flattened shape and a much higher accuracy.
Though it's not the company's focus, the Warp technology could have applications in forensics. After all, the system is designed to work with the kinds of non-ideal prints that unintentional situations tend to generate. The ability of the software to work with partial or smudged prints could increase the number of latent prints that investigators can use among those they find in the field.
The company plans a commercial release within six months.
Other biometric solutions exist. For example, face-recognition and iris-scanning products each offer their own advantages compared to fingerprinting, albeit at a higher price.
The way forward in biometrics access system could be a mashup of systems rather than just relying on a single one. A product combining the various systems could prove to be the ultimate solution yet.
The director of the Center for United Biometrics and Sensors at SUNY-Buffalo, Dr. Venu Govindaraju, notes, "There's some merit to that idea, but I've never seen real numbers."
He summed it up by saying, "The way biometrics is going is combining biometrics. Why use just one?"
Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.