Researchers at the University of Warwick in the UK have developed a way to identify partial, distorted, scratched, smudged, or otherwise warped fingerprints in a few seconds. Previous techniques have tried to identify a few key features on a fingerprint and match them against a database of templates. The new method considers the entire detailed pattern of each print and transforms the topological pattern into a standard coordinate system, allowing researchers to "unwarp" any fingerprint that has been distorted and create a clear digital representation of the fingerprint that can be mapped on to an image space of other fingerprints held on a database.
This unwarping is so effective that it allows, for the first time, comparison of the position of individual sweat pores on a fingerprint. The method also is able to give almost instantaneous results, since new prints scanned by the system are unwarped and overlaid onto a virtual space that includes all available finger-prints. It does not matter if there are a thousand or a million fingerprints in the database -- the result comes back in seconds.
The researchers are exploring a number of commercial opportunities for the new technology including commercial access control systems, financial transaction authorization systems, and possibly even ID cards, passports, or border control systems.