We are in the twenty first century where everything has been digitalized. The technology is at its best and when you compare today with few decades ago, you will not fail to notice that technology gets better each day, and that’s why we are enjoying fingerprint technology. Did you know that fingerprint was used long before the introduction of modern technology?
Historical evidence points to the fact ancient Babylonians and Chinese would press fingers on wet clay to seal business deals. It was not until the late 1890s that scientists took interest in the matter and started developing systems that helped capture and compare fingerprint biometrics.
Nonetheless, most of the different systems developed at the time in various parts of the world were quite rudimental and have not been harmonized by technological advancements hence the all-too-common concept of fingerprint technology. But what were its different evolution stages, from wet clay pressers to computerized and interconnected databases?
Determining edges, curves, and lines
In 1892, Sir Francis Galton, a Eugenicist by progression published a book “Fingerprints” detailing several fingerprint classification programs after sampling over 8,000 samples. The book sought to solve the common problem experienced by most law enforcement officers and scientists about identifying comparable margins, lines, and curves. While this helped several interested parties narrow down the comparable features, this technique was still highly rudimental. For instance, there were no fingerprint devices and specialized equipment like scanners.
As scientists, businesses, and law enforcers made advancements in how they capture biometrics and the use of fingerprints as an identification feature continued, there emerged the faster comparison tools. However, lack of technological penetration in this field made the verification process quite labor reliant. For instance, individuals and institutions using this feature for identification purposes had to solely rely on mental judgment and magnifying glasses to sort different matches.
This proved effective for such institutions as banks where only two or three copies of known prints were being compared. The process would, however, prove tedious and time-consuming where individuals had to compare a huge cache of prints without a ready database to compare each with, such as is expected in crime scenes.
With the advent of computers and interactive software systems, different institutions dipped their feet into developing a faster and more reliable method of sorting fingerprint biometrics. Japan would eventually trump in this field with the development of Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) that digitized Galton’s theories. Further improvements to this list would lead to the incorporation of the 2D technology in the process.
This advent of the 2D technology and its use on different fingerprint devices would go a long way in smoothing several errs reported with the traditional biometrics capturing mechanisms. For instance, it would set well-defined boundaries for the fingerprints ensuring that all devices captured uniform regions for all individuals thus easing the matching process. Most importantly, it would allow for the evaluation of the different facets of the prints allowing for improved comparative accuracy.
Interlinking biometrics databases
Technological improvements that allowed for installation of more sophisticate capturing systems on fingerprint devices also contributed to the establishment of national and international databases for captured prints. However, until 1999, these databases were hugely decentralized with most operating on private networks. This operational system made it highly impossible to match fingerprints captured in one geographical location with others captured in an utterly different region.
At this time, fingerprint scanning and comparison had become a considerable part and parcel of fighting crime, thus the need for a harmonious verification system. The breakthrough here would be achieved through the introduction of an integrated AFIS across the United States by the Criminal Justice Information services department. The service would allow for the creation of a single system that allows for the search, categorization, and retrieval of fingerprints by interested parties in a matter of minutes.
Today, fingerprints are the biggest form of identity verification for different individuals. Their use has also achieved a considerably high reception from different institutional players drawn from different sectors. For instance, it is widely used within the financial services sector, by the law enforcement agencies, in the business world, learning and healthcare facilities to regulate the inflow and outflow of individuals here as well as ease access to different services. Most recently, it was introduced to the mobile devices sector where it seeks to replace passwords and PIN as a login feature where in most cases, it improves the security features of an individual and keeps things confidential.
However, most of these service providers still rely on the 2D fingerprint technology that is easy to copy and replicate. There has been a reported incidence where criminals access and copy an individual’s fingerprints from compromised smartphone devices and use it to create multiple identities. This, therefore, led to the development of a hard to compromise 3D fingerprint technology to be used across different devices. And while most device manufacturers and institutions are warming up to this technology, industry experts already consider it the future of fingerprint biometrics.
Technological advancements across different industries including the biometrics sector have played a vital role in advancing the fingerprint technology. What started off as a mark of a business deal in ancient civilizations has steadily evolved into the primary personal identification feature the world over. And even as other more similar verification features as the face and iris ID try to catch up with it, further advancements such as adoption of 3D technology place a breast ahead of the rest, further cementing its already solid place in the future of identification and verification for global citizens.
With this in mind, the technology that we enjoy today has come a long way. We might not know how they were innovated, but one thing for sure is that those that invented them did a big favor to all of us. And now that this outstanding technology is here with, the best thing we can do is to embrace it by using it to the maximum.