If you want us to point out one factor that is vital for a successful live scan fingerprint submission, it would be the image quality of the captured fingerprints. Fingerprint image quality is the sole factor that can make or break the outcomes of your live scan fingerprinting process.
But if we talk about the image quality further, should the live scan fingerprinting device only be held accountable for it? Or there are factors that may also affect your live scan device’s performance? The answer is that there are several factors that may affect your live scan performance even if the device is perfectly fine, your fingerprint ridge quality is one of them.
The quality of your friction ridges is equally important in this regard as the quality of your live scan device. There are people with deteriorated friction ridges that often have a hard time getting fingerprinted with live scan systems.
So the cases in which poor quality of friction ridges becomes an obstacle for the live scan, is it possible to enhance fingerprint ridges in order to get better image quality? In this article, we will dive deeper to find an answer to this question and more.
The live scan dogma
When we get good results out of live scan fingerprinting, we fall short of words to explain how easy and efficient it is, compared with messy ink fingerprinting on FD-258 FBI cards. However, this perception takes a complete u-turn when the same technology struggles to capture good quality prints and your reaction might be something like – what is the use of such expensive equipment when it cannot do the job that can be done using ink and fingerprint card?
Here, the thing to understand is that the performance of live scan equipment doesn’t only depend on its technological aspects, but also on a lot of other factors. For example, environmental conditions such as humidity level, and temperature can have a major impact on fingerprint image quality.
Dry or dirty fingers will hamper the live scanner’s ability to capture good-quality fingerprint images. Skin condition (the quality of friction ridges) is another important factor that can have a significant impact on image quality. Sometimes user behavior becomes the factor in the quality of the fingerprint image will be captured by the scanner.
What may affect live scan quality?
As we discussed above, there can be a number of factors that may leave an adverse impact on fingerprint quality, even if your live scan equipment is operating perfectly fine.
There can be several environmental factors that may result in poor fingerprint scans such as excess moisture, cold weather, etc. That is the reason fingerprint scanners fail in cold weather. In very low temperatures (minus 10 degree Celsius and below) fingerprint scanners start to behave in undesired ways. Most of the time, they will refuse to enroll a user or it will take multiple scans to get past the system for already enrolled users. In very few occurrences, it will allow you even if you are not registered (false acceptance).
In very cold weather, human skin loses its natural moisture and becomes severely dry. For some skin types, this problem may start to appear at around minus 5 degrees Celsius. In worse cases, friction ridges will start cracking and peeling off. Minute details of friction ridge patterns are also affected, at least in terms of their usability in biometric recognition.
Cold weather leads to skin dryness, which in turn results in stiffer skin and less blood perfusion. Low temperature also causes human skin to shrink and get dried. Dryness leads to cracks on the skin and skin peeling, which makes it hard for fingerprint recognition systems to capture prints. The system may completely refuse to enroll or verify a scan due to its poor quality.
Certain medial conditions affecting finger skin may cause live scan devices to capture a fingerprint image of usable quality.
Injury or cuts on the fingertips can also lead to a distorted ridge pattern, which will cause issues in capturing your fingerprints.
In some circumstances, the applicant’s finger may be deformed or amputated, in such conditions, it will not be possible to capture fingerprints from that finger. That is why there is a provision provided with live scan software as well as fingerprinting cards to record such cases.
Sometimes user behavior becomes a reason for poor fingerprint scans. For example, a user unable to place his/her finger on the sensor surface properly, shaking the finger during the scan, keeping the hands stiff, and not allowing to properly roll the fingers, etc. can lead to poor fingerprint capture.
Similarly, if a finger is overly moist or has dirt or excessive lotion on it, a live scan system may fail to register it.
What do you do when your fingerprints cannot be read?
It is not uncommon to come across instances in which user fingerprints cannot be read with biometrics. The underlying reason for fingerprints not getting captured with adequate quality may depend on several factors we have discussed earlier. In most cases, temporary skin condition due to environmental factors such as cold weather is found to be the culprit.
Sometimes, worn-off fingerprints due to poor ridge quality become the reason for biometric systems to reject your scan. In such cases, ridge enhancement techniques can be employed, which can enhance poor-quality fingerprints and allow live scan fingerprinting systems to capture usable quality fingerprints.
So, how to recover fingerprints for biometric systems, and how to improve fingerprint recognition with the help of fingerprint ridge enhancement techniques? Let’s find out.
How to enhance fingerprint ridges?
Not all instances of unreadable fingerprints on biometric systems are hopeless and many of them can be fixed by enhancing fingerprint ridges using some simple techniques. Ridge enhancement is one such technique that helps regenerate fingerprints and allows biometric systems to read them to produce usable quality fingerprint images.
Follow the correct live scan fingerprinting process
Before blaming the ridge quality for poor fingerprint images, a live scan operator should follow the correct process for a live scan first.
- First of all, your live scan equipment should be placed at an appropriate height. The placement should not be too high or too low that causes a candidate any discomfort and results in the inappropriate placement of the fingers/thumb. According to the FBI… “The recommended height for recording legible fingerprints is approximately 39 inches from the floor. This allows the forearm of an average adult to be parallel with the floor. This is the recommended position to record fingerprints.”
- The applicant’s hand should be cleaned. Guide them to use soap and water to wash their hands. If that is not available/possible, rubbing alcohol (sanitizer) should also do the job.
- If the user’s hands seem moist, some alcohol can be applied to reduce moisture on the skin. On the contrary, if the skin seems dry or flaky, apply some moisturizer lotion in an appropriate amount. Wipe off any residue lotion as it may cause problems during the scan.
- Your live scan fingerprint reader platen should also be free of dust, dirt, and any residual fingerprint images. Use a soft cloth to clean the live scan device platen.
- Before starting the fingerprinting process, ask the individual not to assist with the process as it may cause undesired results. Ask his/her to relax and look away from the fingerprinting device.
Grasp the individual’s right hand at the base of the thumb with your right hand. Cup your hand over the individual’s fingers, tucking under those fingers not being printed. Guide the finger being printed with your left hand. Register rolled and flat fingerprints of the individual.
Live scan fingerprint operators may come across scenarios in which a candidate may have deformed or missing fingers. If the finger is deformed, every attempt should be made to record the fingerprint in both the rolled and plain impression blocks. A postmortem kit, which is more commonly known as a spoon, can be utilized to assist in recording these images. If unable to record the image, simply place a notation in the fingerprint block.
Missing, deformed fingers and worn ridges
Missing fingers are fingers physically present but cannot be recorded at the time of capture due to injury. Each missing finger should be designated via a notation in the fingerprint block (e.g., bandaged, injured, crippled, paralyzed) or electronically apply the UP code in data field 2.084.
An individual, by the nature of their work or age, may have very thin or worn ridges in the pattern area. Apply light pressure and use very little ink to record these types of fingerprint impressions.
A technique known as “milking the finger” can be used to raise the fingerprint ridges prior to printing. This technique involves applying pressure or rubbing the fingers in a downward motion from palm to fingertip. If that does not work, the fingerprint ridge enhancement technique can be used.
Fingerprint ridge enhancer: ridge enhancement lotion
There are products available in the market, specially designed for ridge enhancement. These products can be helpful for individuals who have a hard time getting fingerprinted on the live scan fingerprinting systems. This mostly happens due to deteriorated fingerprint ridge quality that may be caused by several factors.
Some individuals, who work and come in contact with certain chemicals, may have deteriorated ridge quality such as thin or worn ridges. These people may have a hard time with live scan fingerprinting as the scan may result in poor-quality images.
People who use their hands for manual work that causes friction may have worn skin ridges. Plumbers, carpenters, laborers, loaders, etc. may eventually have worn fingerprint ridges.
Some sports such as rock climbing, mountaineering, etc. may cause friction ridges to deteriorate resulting in difficulties with live scan.
Ridge enhancement products such as DigitScan from Arizona Fingerprints can be of great help to such individuals. These products contain ingredients that allow worn ridges to be scanned with live scan fingerprinting.
With the right fingerprint enhancement lotion, you can instantly notice the difference in the scan with and without the lotion. These lotions are required to be applied to the fingers to be scanned right before the scan.
Fingerprint ridge enhancers do not require you to wait, they work instantly. Just spray/apply to lotion, rub the hands together and you are ready to go.
The performance of a live scan fingerprint reader depends on a lot of factors such as environmental conditions, quality of friction ridges, as well as the fingerprint reader itself. In the end, it is the quality of a fingerprint image scanned by the live scan fingerprinting device that matters.
Sometimes, despite following the correct process, some individuals may have a hard time getting scanned on live scan fingerprint readers. These individuals may wonder if my fingerprint cannot be read with biometrics or why my fingerprints keep getting rejected. Often, poor ridge quality can be the reason behind such issues.
Fortunately, there are products available in the market called ridge enhancers aka fingerprint enhancement lotion that help you produce desired results with live scan fingerprinting. All you need is to apply the fingerprint enhancement lotion on the area to be scanned and your next scan would be as good as it should be.