More than a century has passed since Alphonse Bertillon first conceived and then industriously practiced the idea of using body measurements for solving crimes. Just as his idea was gaining popularity, it faded into relative obscurity by a far more significant and practical discovery of the uniqueness of the human fingerprints.
Soon after this discovery, many major law enforcement departments embraced the idea of first “booking” the fingerprints of criminals, so that their records are readily available and later using leftover fingerprint smudges (latents), the identity of criminals can be determined.
These agencies sponsored a rigorous study of fingerprints, developed scientific methods for visual matching of fingerprints and strong programs/cultures for training fingerprint experts, and applied the art of fingerprint identification for nailing down the perpetrators.
Despite the ingenious methods improvised to increase the efficiency of the manual method of fingerprint indexing and search, the ever growing demands on manual fingerprint identification quickly became overwhelming.
The manual method of fingerprint indexing resulted in a highly skewed distribution of fingerprints into bins (types): most fingerprints fell into a few bins and this resulted in search inefficiencies.
Fingerprint training procedures were time-intensive and slow. Further, demands imposed by painstaking attention needed to visually match the fingerprints of varied qualities, tedium of monotonic nature of the work, and increasing workloads due to a higher demand on fingerprint identification services, all prompted the law enforcement agencies to initiate research into acquiring fingerprints through electronic medium and automatic fingerprint identification based on the digital representation of the fingerprints.
These efforts have led to development of automatic/semi-automatic fingerprint identification systems over the past few decades. We attempt to present current state-of-the-art in fingerprint sensing and identification technology.
The objective of this chapter is to present a high level overview of fingerprint sensing and matching technology so as to provide the reader with some insights into the strengths and limitations of the automation in matching fingerprints.
Because of space limitation, we have focused only on the core technology rather than the details of the commercial systems. We will not describe the existing elaborate manual protocols (e.g., What is a core? How are fingerprints indexed/filed in a manual system?)
Source: The Pennsylvania State University
Author: Anil Jain | Sharath Pankanti