Study disproves child fingerprint aging concerns
23 September 2016 15:23 GMT

Biometric researchers at Michigan State University prove in a new study that the digital fingerprints of a six-month old can used for authentication one year later.

The findings refute a prevailing theory, that  the fingerprints of infants grew too fast to make then reliable identifiers.

In the study, coordinated by renowned biometrics expert Anil Jain at Saran Ashram hospital in Dayalbagh, India, researchers collected the fingerprints of 309 children age 0 to five years old at four different times over a period of one year.

“Despite efforts of international health organizations and NGOs, children are still dying because it’s been believed that it wasn’t possible to use body traits such as fingerprints to identify children. We’ve just proven it is possible,” said Jain, a University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering.

“As the technology further evolves, there are many social good applications for this new technique with far-reaching impacts on a global scale,” said Jain. “At a touch of a finger, health care workers could have access to a child’s medical history. Whether in a developing nation, refugee camp, homeless shelter or, heaven forbid, a kidnapping situation, a child’s identity could be verified if they had their fingerprint scanned at birth and included in a registry.”

They were able to show in the study that state-of-the-art fingerprint technology yields a high recognition accuracy of 98.9% for children six months or older.

The importance of this finding will help developing countries recognize children for vaccination tracking, supplementary food delivery and national identification documents of young children six months and older.

The identification of children through fingerprinting could also turn the tables on the more than more than five million children who lose their lives to vaccine-preventable diseases each year in developing countries.

The researchers want to capture the children’s fingerprints in a database that can be accessed by medical professionals to record immunization schedules and other medical information.

“The impact of child fingerprinting will be enormous in improving lives of the disadvantaged,” said Sandeep Ahuja, CEO of Operation ASHA, an NGO dedicated to bringing tuberculosis treatment and health services to India.

“It could save five million lives just by ensuring implementation of well-known measures immediately after birth, like breast feeding, by tracking interaction of health workers and newborns in underdeveloped countries.”

In a press release, Anil Jain, MSU Professor and author of the study said that as the technology evolves, there are many social good applications for the new technique that could have a significant impact on a global scale.

For instance, applications include National Identification.

Many countries have some form of national identification system, such as the Unique Identification Authority of India, which enrolls any resident over 5 years old using biometric identifiers.

With approximately 25 million births each year, India would like to lower the enrollment age. Capturing a baby’s fingerprints at age 6 months or older would assist them in this process and ensure proper identification from an early age.

A digital fingerprint identity system will give children an identity for a lifetime to help combat children and at-risk adults from human trafficking, refugee crisis situations, kidnappings or lack of basic services.

Improving nutrition. In the least-developed countries, where 14 percent suffer from undernutrition, tracking children can help aid initiatives for providing and improving nutrition services and food.