A knock against fingerprint technology has always been hygiene. People touching the same scanner one after another are an easy way to spread germs.
Contactless fingerprint scanners are a solution to this problem as the technology has become more widely available in the past couple of years. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is working with industry to bring fast, touchless fingerprint readers out of the lab and into the marketplace.
Before contactless fingerprint technology can be used broadly, the products must be evaluated and proven to work with millions of existing contact-based fingerprint records.
NIST is conducting its research on contactless fingerprinting devices with the FBI Biometric Center of Excellence. The partnership’s goal is to develop common requirements, metrics and open testing methods for this new fingerprint technology that will support future certification for purchase on the Government Certified Products lists.
Researchers at NIST are working with contactless fingerprint devices from MorphoTrak LLC, and 3M Company through Cooperative Research and Development Agreements. NIST continues to seek new partners to participate in the tests.
Contactless fingerprints will look different from those pressed down on a scanner. Because skin is elastic, traditional fingerprints contain natural distortion from the pressure of placing the finger on the fingerprinting surface, says Michael Garris, NIST biometrics senior scientist.
There are also many types of sensors being used for contactless fingerprint capture. They are significantly different from the sensors used to obtain contact-based fingerprints, so the touchless scans have different image properties.
NIST is developing methods to test these devices to determine if they are reliable, accurate and can work with legacy systems. The first step is to develop models to measure image fidelity on the new systems, including developing calibration patterns that can be used as optical targets to determine resolution, focus, contrast, spatial consistency and other properties of fingerprints.
The researchers also are investigating materials for use as synthetic targets for testing, such as aluminum, polycarbonate and NIST-developed materials that can mimic the pigmentation and light-diffusion properties of human tissue.