SA agency devises new fingerprint technology

Researchers at the South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) have developed an electronic fingerprint system that allows for faster, more accurate identity matches.


The system has been developed through a multimillion-rand grant from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), for use by government entities, such as the Home Affairs Department, which captures fingerprints on a daily basis, or the South African Police Service in its fight against crime.

Ishmael Msiza, CSIR modelling and digital science researcher said the fingerprint recognition systems have two essential transactions – a verification transaction, and a identification transaction.

“The identification transaction has a number of challenges,” explains Msiza. “For relatively large databases, the recognition system can take a very long time to find a likely match, especially if it is a linear search, starting at the top and finishing at the bottom of the database.”

However, one way to shorten the search process is to sort fingerprints into various classes, according to their features, which then ensures that a database search can be launched within a class, rather than the entire database, which speeds up the process quite significantly.

“We are currently sitting on five fingerprint classes, but these can be extended much further,” Msiza said

What the CSIR has achieved is to now classify fingerprints, even if the delta points are missing.

The South Africa Home Affairs according to the researcher typically has a mixture of fingerprints on record, with scanners being the newest technology in use.

“We can now capture all types of fingerprints – slapped and rolled – and correctly classify them, using our classification software.”

The classification system forms part of the bigger fingerprint recognition system commissioned by the DST. Other components, also under development at the CSIR, include fingerprint realignment technology and fingerprint segmentation technology.

“We are in the process of developing a commercial prototype of the fingerprint recognition system, and hand it over to the DST by the end of the year,” said Msiza.

He notes that while other fingerprint recognition systems exist in the world, it is an issue of national security to develop a home-grown solution, without any outsiders gaining access to sensitive information about South Africa’s population

Source – Africa STI – October 10, 2011