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Chancellor Tests Touch-free Fingerprint Scanner

New Contactless Device Has Many Security Applications

Chancellor Meehan gets fingerprinted as University Chief Allan Roscoe and student Michael Baier watch.

By Edwin L. Aguirre

If Electrical and Computer Engineering Prof. Sam Mil’shtein has his way, the days of using ink pads to obtain fingerprints are over. Mil’shtein and his ECE students ― Michael Baier, Paula Bustos, Christopher Granz and Anup Pillai ― have developed a novel contactless fingerprint scanner that can produce quick scans of fingers without any smudging or mess.

Such a system, according to the team, is far more accurate than the traditional ink method since there is no distortion of the fingertips’ dermal patterns.

Chancellor Marty Meehan recently had firsthand experience in using the scanner at the UMass Lowell Police Department. Meehan inserted each of his fingers into the scanner’s small porthole. A high-resolution electronic camera then swung 180 degrees around each finger, recording a three-dimensional, distortion-free scan. The entire scanning process took only about a second. The prints were then downloaded and displayed on a computer monitor.

For added security, the same camera can also be programmed to take a simultaneous infrared image of the finger’s blood vessels. Like the blood vessels in the retina, a person’s pattern of finger blood vessels is unique to each individual, says Mil’shtein.

This technology has many military, civilian and commercial applications, especially in the fields of law enforcement, forensic investigation, counterterrorism and identity theft. For example, electronic fingerprints can be embedded in the magnetic strips of credit/debit cards, IDs and ATM cards to help authenticate the identity of the person using the card. Mil’shtein calls this technology “biometrics against crime.”

His group hopes to have a working prototype of a portable, handheld scanner ready by the end of the fall semester. Officers from the campus’s police department as well as those from the City of Lowell will be able to use it in the field to quickly check the fingerprints of suspects. Each unit will communicate wirelessly with the laptop PC installed in a police cruiser, and a special algorithm will compare the prints with the police department’s database.

For more information, read a previous eNews story about the group’s research.

Prof. Sam Milshtein, right, with students Paula Bustos, Michael Baier, Anup Pillai and Christopher Granz.