SA achieves fingerprint recognition first


The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed what it calls a “world-first” in fingerprint recognition.

The council says its information security (IS) researchers have developed a structural fingerprint classifier that is able to correctly classify a fingerprint with only partial information.

This will greatly assist the SA Police Services, which has a heavy backlog of cases waiting for fingerprint analysis.
“The researchers also introduced novel fingerprint features – collectively referred to as pseudo-singular points – as feeder to ‘extensible structural fingerprint classifier’,” says the CSIR.

Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, head of IS research within the CSIR modelling and digital science research unit, explains the need for a classification module, saying in fingerprint recognition, fingerprint templates normally sit in a database so when going through an identification process the system has to sift through thousands, if not millions, of templates, making the system slow in yielding results.

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He adds that a classification module essentially breaks down the overall database into smaller, manageable chunks to improve the performance of a fingerprint recognition system.
“Both the extensible fingerprint classifier and the pseudo-singular point detection module will allow the system to be extremely fast and accurate when database search is conducted. This will add to the overall efficiency of the entire fingerprint recognition system.”

Nelwamondo also says such a fast and efficient system is used on a daily basis in large and integrated solutions such as the Department of Home Affairs’ national identification system.
“This breakthrough could contribute to future systems that are even faster, because of the system’s ability to match fingerprints using only partial information.”

Due to this technological breakthrough, CSIR researchers are studying the concept of pseudo-singular point detection (P-SPD) and false transition elimination, a concept that also emerged from P-SPD.
“The latter involves identification and location approximation of a global fingerprint landmark,” explains the council.
“Pseudo-singular points are faux versions of the conventional singular points, yet they are easy to detect and provide almost the same classification accuracy.”

SA desperately needs this capability because of ills such as identity theft, according to researcher within the CSIR’s modelling and digital science unit Ishmael Msiza, who developed the system.

He adds that the council is working towards realising an identity authentication system through biometric research and development. The current trend in identity authentication is to use multi-modal biometric systems.

A common combination is that of fingerprint and iris recognition. “Besides additional security and reliability, another advantage of a multi-modal biometric system is that subjects who, for instance, do not have limbs, can now be identified through their iris.”

Msiza says in SA, his research group is the only one that has done basic research and built a full biometric solution from scratch. “Our country has always been a passive consumer when it comes to biometric technologies.”

This makes the country vulnerable in many respects from a security point of view.
“What this means is that we have entrusted the information security of our country into the hands of foreign-based enterprises that develop and sell these technologies,” explains Msiza.
“By virtue of us buying these technologies, we are no longer in control of the security threats that could come built into these systems. This is simply because we neither know nor understand how these systems were developed.”

He believes this is why SA should invest more resources in research and development of its own systems suitable for the country’s market.
“Besides, these foreign-developed systems are proprietary and their licensing fees are exorbitant. If the government could get home-grown biometric technology solutions, it could save millions of rands.”