Fingerprint identification systems has become popular because of its ease of acquisition, reliability, in numerous sources (any of the 10 fingers can be used for enrolment purposes), and its acceptance by law enforcement and immigration authorities. However, lack of interoperability in the earlier systems resulted in many man hours lost which led to a call for standardization.
The search for the ideal automated fingerprint identification system started in the late 60’s as a part of a FBI initiative. Accordingly, the National Bureau of Standards, now called the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was entrusted with the task of studying the process of classification, researching, and matching fingerprints. This resulted in the development of the M40 algorithm used by the FBI to narrow down the search. By 1981 five different Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems were operational; however, due to the lack of standardization they were not interoperable; that is, the information collected by one system could not be used by another system.
The need for homogenization
The need for homogenization or standardization of systems is essential because of the variety and complexity of sensors and algorithms available in the market. Interoperability means that the biometric fingerprints collected by one system can be interpreted by a fingerprint scanner in another system. To achieve this end several initiatives were undertaken to standardize the content, meaning, and format of fingerprinting information. A brief overview of some of the initiatives are given below-
Integrated Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)
This was maintained by FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) in order to expedite fingerprint searches. With over 47 million subjects the system facilitated electronic storage of images, latent fingerprint searches, and electronic exchanges of fingerprint data between two different automatic fingerprint identifiers.
ANSI/ INCITS 381-2004 Finger Image based Data Interchange Format
This format specifies the interoperability standards for image based fingerprint and palm print information. It sets the standards and guidelines for content, format and unit of measurement which helps interoperability.
ANSI/ INCITS 378-2004 Finger Minutiae Format for Data Interchange
This format lays down the standards for recording Minutiae related fingerprint information by setting guidelines for recording, interpreting and placing minutiae data.
ISO/IEC 19794-2 Finger Minutiae For Data Interchange
This lays down standards for determining minutiae points, their use and the data formats for smart card usage. It also lays down guidelines for matching of fingerprint information.
NIST Special Publication 800 -76
This standard mentions the specifics for recording, storing and processing fingerprint data and templates required for storing facial data. It also mentions the specifics of the biometric device required for reading fingerprint images.
For a greater part of a century now, fingerprinting technology has proved their utility in identification and validation procedures all over the world. The move towards standardization has led to interoperable systems and that day is not far when biometric security solutions will become the order or the day.