Recent years have witnessed huge growth in deployments of fingerprint recognition systems in a variety of applications. Mobile biometrics has also taken unprecedented leap and fingerprint technology is one of the prominent biometric recognition methods offered in most of the smartphones shipping today. This massive success of fingerprint technology was not attained by chance. It took years of technological developments and especially recent advancements in fingerprint technology to make it a success.
Fingerprint technology: on its way to ubiquity
Touch and go! Identification, identity verification and access control have been made that simple by fingerprint recognition technology and devices. There is no need to rush to your ID card or identity documents, even in the most stressed situations. All it takes a pre-established record of your biometric identity, a fingerprint recognition system and a touch of your fingertip to prove you are you. Fingerprint recognition is the most developed biometric modality and arguably the only one that offers end-to-end solution, which can be deployed with currently available fingerprint recognition systems.
All present day identification, identity verification and access control (both digital as well as physical) requirements can be satisfied by fingerprint recognition technology. In general terms, wherever you need locks/keys, cards, PINs or passwords, you can use your fingerprints instead. For example, when you leave home, you can lock your door with fingerprint door locks, unlock your car with your fingerprints, reach your office and can clock-in on fingerprint attendance systems and unlock your work station with fingerprints. This is just an example how fingerprint recognition technology can practically remove all the frictions, frustration and wastage of time by replacing traditional locks and keys or PINs and passwords from your day-to-day life.
Technological advancements hold the key
Fingerprint technology gets directly benefitted by technological advancement in computing, electronics and related areas of technology. Today, standalone fingerprint devices built for a particular applications (e.g. fingerprint time and attendance systems) can connect to other devices, network and exchange data over the internet. It makes them suitable for identification from a remote location as well as for cloud biometrics in which biometric ability is provided as a service.
Fingerprint technology is sure benefitted by technological advancement in computers and electronics, but what are some of the recent advancements in the fingerprint technology itself? Let’s have a look at that in the following sections.
Recent advancements in fingerprint technology
Having been an integral part of forensic operations for more than a century, fingerprint recognition always received more attention of technology experts than any other biometric modality. Advancement in any technological system depends on the advancement of all the sub-systems it runs on.
PCs have become a common household item and people look for the fastest ones for the money they spend. Each part of a PC has to comply with others to be able to perform optimally. If you go for a PC with the fastest processor, rest of the components also has to compliment the processor speed or they will also make the processor lag. If read/write speed of your computer’s hard disk is not up to the mark, you would not be able to make the best use of your superfast processor.
The same is also true with the fingerprint technology and devices. All the fingerprint sub-systems have to improve to advance the recognition system as a whole. Just like the above example of a personal computer, enhancing processor speed will not be sufficient is sensor is slow or the firmware is inefficient. Fortunately, recent advancements in fingerprint technology has touched almost all of its crucial aspects, be it hardware, software and the quality of material used. Following are some of the important advancement seen recently in fingerprint tech.
A fingerprint processor is a digital integrated circuit that processes binary data received from sub-systems and processes it according to the pre-loaded instructions that resides in the memory. After processing the inputs as per the stored instructions, it provides the output or the decision (e.g. match/no-match, enrolled/not-enrolled). A fingerprint processor works like the brains of the fingerprint recognition device. Present day fingerprint processors are more efficient and powerful, yet power efficient than ever. They are also getting more and more compact with newer manufacturing processes. Compactness is the key criteria in many new and innovative applications of fingerprint identification and authentication.
Today’s fingerprint processors are faster than ever and are easy to integrate in application specific systems. Despite being fast they do not overlook power efficiency, which is crucial in many of today’s battery operated applications like card readers, door locks and biometric gun safes. Modern processors achieve power efficiency by manipulation crystal frequency internally. They can up-scale and down-scale the frequency to save power, which can be a crucial requirement in battery operated applications.
This is another important piece of hardware that enables a fingerprint recognition system to acquire fingerprint features with a finger scan. Imaging of user fingerprints with a digital camera with visible light is the simplest technique of fingerprint acquisition used in optical sensors. Other than optical, sensors, we have capacitive, ultrasonic, and thermal sensors, which uses properties of electricity, sound and heat respectively to create a fingerprint image.
Fingerprint recognition has already become a mainstream method for employee time tracking and attendance. Mobile biometrics is also flourishing with innovating offerings like ultra-sonic and in-display fingerprint sensors, which can read your fingerprint right from the phone display, there is no need to adjust the sensor at the bottom or on the rear panel of the phone.
Today’s fingerprint applications are not limited to attendance machines or mobile phones. We now have fingerprint credit cards that are set to revolutionize the way people make payments. Things get little challenging when it comes to implement fingerprint recognition ability on a plastic card with 0.76mm thickness (the standard thickness of a credit card). Advancements in fingerprint sensing technology have made it possible to achieve this level of compactness, which seemed unachievable a few years ago. Leading manufacturers have already started mass producing super-thin fingerprint sensors, which can fit in such form factors as well.
Ultra-thin FPC-1300 series sensors from Fingerprints, which is a leading fingerprint hardware and software solution provider, offers ability to integrate fingerprint recognition in smart cards, credit cards and in any plastic card that require user authentication using fingerprints. These ultra-thin low power fingerprint sensors can be touched from any angle to easily authenticate identity and make payments.
Firmware and algorithms
Fingerprint systems come with pre-loaded firmware which consists of the recognition algorithm and other instructions to make the hardware work. Performance of a biometric system depends directly on the algorithm used. Fingerprint processor manufacturers may use their in-house algorithms developed specially for a particular fingerprint processor. There are also open source recognition algorithms, which can be used for open source implementations; however COTS offerings have proven to be more efficient than open source implementations.
Biometric Performance metrics like FAR, FRR, FMR, FNMR, etc. depends on the algorithm used in the firmware. Choice of algorithm also depends on the type of hardware and other components used.
Manufacturers try to keep FAR (False Acceptance Rate) as low as possible to minimize the chances of unauthorized access. In “high security” conditions it can be less than 0.001, while in “high convenience” implementation it can go up to 0.1 for user verification scenarios. On the other hand FRR (False Rejection Rate) for the similar conditions can be as high as <=1 in high convenience and <= 2 for high security conditions. Denying access to unauthorized users is far more crucial than making an authorized user to rescan their fingerprints.
Recent advancement in fingerprint devices
Today’s fingerprint recognition devices are faster, accurate and securer than their previous generations and they will continue to improve as technology and new standards grow. Top fingerprint device manufacturers like HID Global (formerly Lumidigm), Secugen, Nitgen, Crossmatch (Now part of HID Global), etc. offer fingerprint devices with their innovative solutions for secure and efficient identification and authentication. Let’s talk about one of such innovative solutions from HID Global. Fingerprint recognition devices with HID Global’s award winning Lumidigm Multispectral fingerprint sensing technology can scan fingerprints deeper than the surface of the skin.
Conventionally, a fingerprint is collected by scanning or imaging the features of skin surface but HID Global’s proprietary tech does it differently. It uses multiple wavelengths of light to collect a fingerprint image and in doing that, it collects information about the surface fingerprint as well as below the surface information. Reflected light is analysed for the sample and if the system detects something that does not look like human skin, it instantly knows that someone is trying to use a spoof sample to defeat the security of the system.
Just like HID, many fingerprint device manufactures that are working on innovative features to curb the current challenges of security, performance and spoof detection. They are even merging different technologies like behavioral biometrics, continues authentication, 2-Factor Authentication, etc. to take fingerprint security to the next level.
Recent advancements in fingerprint technology: implications
When it comes to the technological advancements, the above proverb and the quote from Steve Jobs both stand true. However, today when technology is exceeding expectations, Steve Jobs’ quotes is somewhat truer. Before the launch of iPhone people did not know they need touch screen smartphones. Today, life seems hard without them.
Improved anti-spoofing mechanism
Spoofing and presentations attacks are the greatest challenge of biometric systems. Spoof detection techniques have advanced over time and are more immune to spoof attacks than ever, however, they are still not 100% secure and a lot to be done yet. Improved anti-spoofing mechanism is one of the greatest benefits of advancements in fingerprint technology.
Improved speed and reduced processing time
Processing speed is also one of the implications of recent advancement in fingerprint technology. Improved hardware, refined software and efficient algorithms have dramatically cut the processing time of fingerprint identification and verification. Practically, a 1:1 verification on present day fingerprint recognition systems can be as low as 0.1 second. This time can increase when the system is on power saving mode to keep power-consumption low in low battery or power failure situations (e.g. in fingerprint door locks or card readers). A 1:500 Identification scenario can take as low as 1 second to as long as 10 seconds on a same setup to maintain power efficiency.
Technical advancement in fingerprint recognition systems has made a huge impact on the accuracy part. Accuracy of present day fingerprint recognition systems is astonishing. They are also more tolerant to user behavior and environment conditions.
Recent advancements in fingerprint technology have also resulted in power efficient fingerprint devices and components. Most systems now use LEDs that save a lot of power in comparison with traditional lamps. Modern fingerprint processors can also manipulate processing frequency to keep power consumption low.
Ease of integration: fingerprint SDKs and APIs
Today, it has become incredibility easy to integrate a fingerprint recognition system to your custom applications, which used to take a lot of programming efforts a few years ago. Today, almost all the devices manufactures offer fingerprint SDK and API to help integrate their devices with custom applications built on different platforms and programming languages.
Technology is probably the fastest developing area than any other man made things and fingerprint recognition technology is not an exception. Recent years have witnessed so many advancements in fingerprint technology which is unparalleled in the history of biometric technology.
Mobile biometrics has particularly shown unprecedented growth. Today, we have ultra-thin fingerprint processor that can fit into applications like payment cards and fingerprint sensors which can scan user prints from the smartphone display.
Once only limited to high security facilities for access control and identification applications, fingerprint recognition is now available even in low-end smartphones.