UK software firm lends coding hands to biometrics startup
27 October 2015 13:19 GMT

Redgate Software, a Cambridge, UK-based company that develops SQL Server and .NET development tools, is devoting a week to work on the code for an open source biometric fingerprint system that aims to improve lives in the developing world.

Redgate Software has said it will helped biometrics system’s developers, SimPrints, as part of Down Tools Week, Redgate’s regular hackweek, where software developers, testers, UX designers, and project managers literally down tools to spend five days working on inspirational projects.

SimPrints is a non profit tech company working with the Gates Foundation and charities like Médecins Sans Frontières to design a low cost biometric scanner that can be deployed in the field. With the scanner, a health worker can swipe a patient’s fingerprint to find and view the correct health records on a mobile device, either online or offline.

The proposal was suggested to Redgate by Tristram Norman, the CTO of SimPrints, who saw an opportunity for the technology to take a big leap forward. “Our scanner uses SourceAFIS, the best open source automatic fingerprint identification system available,” he explains. “The codebase behind it is written in C#, but we want to rewrite it in C so that it works better with native Android which runs most of the mobile tools used by health workers around the world.”

Tristram Norman calculated that it would take a single developer around 55 days to rewrite the source code – but that it might be possible for a team of Redgate developers to complete the task during Down Tools Week.

The idea was suggested internally at Redgate and a dozen developers and testers signed up to work on it. The aim is rewrite the code in just five days in the first week of November and have a version working on the SimPrints Scanner so that it can be tested in the field.

“We’re really excited about this,” says Jeff Foster, Head of Product Engineering at Redgate. “Down Tools Week is all about giving people the opportunity to expand their skills in new areas. The team working on the SimPrints project have a big task ahead of them, but there are lots of reasons to succeed and we’ll be providing all the help we can.”

“The potential is enormous,” adds Tristram Norman. “To have such a big team from Redgate focused solely on SimPrints for a week will mean we can shorten our development schedule and get our technology in use sooner in places like Bangladesh and Zambia where it’s desperately needed.”

Even if all the porting work isn’t completed within the hackweek at Redgate, the leap forward provided by a sustained week of effort from a large team of developers brings the challenge from difficult to possible in a short space of time.

Professor Alain Labrique, Director of Johns Hopkins University Global mHealth Initiative, has already called SimPrints ‘a real game-changer for the foot soldiers of global health’.

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