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How Fingerprint Recognition has changed the world and what the future holds

Fingerprints have been used in forensic investigations for the identification of individuals since the late 19th century. However, it is now clear that fingerprints can provide significantly more information about an individual.  

As well as helping to identify individuals, considerable advances in fingerprinting technology mean that fingerprints can now provide accurate and reliable chemical information regarding the drugs ingested and the explosives and drugs handled by a person in addition to their identity. 

NEC has been at the forefront of Fingerprint Recognition for over 30 years and leads the market in accurate and fast finger and palm print biometric scanning, matching and recognition. NEC was ranked number one in two consecutive fingerprint recognition benchmark tests conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and our technology is used in international airports for border protection and law enforcement agencies for public safety. 

Here, we take a look at the advancements in Fingerprint Recognition and look at how its use has changed the world in which we live and what the future holds. 

Advances in fingerprint technology 

Whilst fingerprints may have been used in forensic investigations since the late 19th century, it’s only more recently that we have seen the practical applications of Fingerprint Recognition become more widely available and accessible. 

In 1969, the FBI had a major push to develop a system to automate its fingerprint identification process which had quickly become overwhelming and required many man-hours to process. They worked with NIST to study the process of automating fingerprint classification, searching and matching and in 1975, the FBI funded the development of fingerprint scanners for automated classifiers and minutiae extraction technology1

Since those early days, NIST has been at the forefront of developments in Fingerprint Recognition and they are the current body that tests Fingerprint Recognition technology today and ranks that technology for speed and accuracy. 

What drives the advances in Fingerprint Recognition technology? 

Here at NEC, we have been investing in R&D in Fingerprint Recognition technology for over 30 years and have been one of the leading drivers of advancements in the technology. Over the past 30 years, advances in automatic fingerprint recognition have been driven by improvements in fingerprint sensing as well as advancements in areas such as computer pattern recognition, image processing and computer vision. 

The introduction of radiographic fluoroscopy (RF)2 imaging led to huge advances in Fingerprint Recognition. RF imaging allows for the measurement of a higher-quality representation of the ridge pattern from beneath the skin. Using RF array-based fingerprint sensor technology provides the ability to adapt to different finger skin conditions (including sweating) and environments. RF imaging works in conjunction with high performance CPUs (such as personal computers and handheld devices), meaning that Fingerprint Recognition is one of the most convenient and widely adopted biometric identification methods. 

Practical applications of Fingerprint Recognition technology 

As one of the most accessible biometric authentication technologies, Fingerprint Recognition has been widely adopted across a wide range of sectors. One thing that makes Fingerprint Recognition such a robust technology is the longevity of the fingerprint – it’s a highly reliable biometric identifier that changes very little over a person’s life. Fingerprinting is also highly flexible – with 10 digits to choose from as well as the palm print, it presents and highly reliable method of identification. 

Here at NEC, our Fingerprint Recognition technology is used across a number of sectors with 11,000 customers across New Zealand, Australia and the Asia Pacific region. Some of those customers include: 

  • Law Enforcement 
  • Immigration 
  • Health 
  • Small and Medium Businesses and Enterprise 
  • Border Control 

Of course, many of us are actively using Fingerprint Recognition daily, with most of today’s modern smartphones using your fingerprint as one of their biometric authentication methods. Many businesses, large and small, are also starting to make use of Fingerprint Recognition technology in order to control access to buildings and restricted areas, reducing the need for access control cards and eliminating the risk of people ‘sharing’ access cards. 

Advantages and disadvantages of Fingerprint Recognition 

There are many advantages of using Fingerprint Recognition. However like all technologies, it also has its drawbacks. 

Advantages of Fingerprint Recognition 

1. Accuracy – Fingerprint Recognition is a highly accurate method of identification. Here at NEC, we have come out on top of the last two matching algorithm benchmarks carried out by NIST as well as achieving the lowest false acceptance rate (FAR) and lowest false rejection rate (FRR) in the industry. 

2. Integration – Fingerprint Recognition technology, including the capture and matching algorithm can be integrated with scanners, readers and peripherals from multiple suppliers. 

3. Mobile options – whilst a lot of fingerprint scanners are fixed, mobile options exist which are great for public safety applications in the field. NEC’s NeoScan 45 is our latest and most accurate mobile solution – capable of capturing and analysing single and multiple fingerprints out in the field. 

4. Secure – unlike password-based security systems, Fingerprint Recognition is a highly secure authentication method. Near impossible to copy or duplicate, fingerprint authentication systems offer a high level of security across a wide range of applications. 

5. Scalable – like other biometrics authentication solutions, fingerprint systems are highly scalable. From securing more areas, adding more employees or adding to the number of mobile units you have, scaling your Fingerprint Recognition solution is quick and easy. 

Disadvantages of Fingerprint Recognition 

1. Friction – unlike some biometric authentication methods like Facial Recognition or Iris Recognition, Fingerprint Recognition requires an element of friction as you need to physically touch a scanner in order to authenticate. 

2. Time – related to the friction element, the time taken to authenticate using Fingerprint Recognition can lead to s frustrating user experience, especially if there are issues identifying the finger. Mobile phones can have this issue if the device is wet or the finger is sweaty or exceptionally clean. 

3. Cost – whilst the cost of implementing Fingerprint Recognition solutions has come down significantly, it can still be prohibitive to smaller businesses. 

The future of Fingerprint Recognition 

There is no doubt that Fingerprint Recognition has already made a huge difference to the way we live our lives today. The next generation will be growing up in a world where using your fingerprint to access devices, enter buildings and travel overseas are all second nature.  

Currently, NEC’s Fingerprint Recognition is independently recognised as the fastest and most accurate Fingerprint Recognition software in the market. This doesn’t mean we are resting on our laurels; R&D continues to improve both the speed and accuracy of our Fingerprint Recognition and security remain at the forefront of our developments. 

The future towards which we are heading means that Fingerprint Recognition will play an even greater integral role in our day to day lives and we’re excited to be leading the way on new and innovative uses and applications. 


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