Fingerprint matching

Computerised systems that automatically match fingerprints have become so sophisticated that the best of them are accurate more than 99% of the time, according to a new US study.

Computer scientists at the US Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) tested 34 commercially available fingerprint matching systems provided by 18 companies from around the world.

The systems were compared using a total of 48,105 sets of fingerprints from 25,309 people.

The most accurate systems were from NEC of Japan, SAGEM of France and Cogent, an American company, and NIST says that the performance of the three systems was comparable.

However, the performance varied depending on how many fingerprints from a given individual were being matched. The best system was accurate 98.6% of the time on single-finger tests, 99.6% of the time on two-finger tests, and 99.9% of the time for tests involving four or more fingers. The accuracies were obtained for a false positive rate of 0.01 percent.

The Justice Management Division of the US Department of Justice funded the study in connection with its efforts to integrate the fingerprint systems operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.

NIST is publishing a series of reports on the testing that includes a comprehensive analysis of the results. The first of these reports is available <link>here=http://fpvte.nist.gov</link>.

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