The US government wants a better way to get its hands on people’s fingerprints – and it has set up a contest to find it.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has launched a challenge that pits security companies and research groups against each other, in a bid to build a device that accurately captures every part of a fingerprint. This “nail-to-nail” scan covers the whole fingertip, from one side of a fingernail to the other.
The larger the area captured, the more useful it is. A bigger print gives police officers more chance to match a partial print found at a crime scene, for example.
So nail to nail is the gold standard. But capturing prints like this is time-consuming and labour-intensive, says Chris Boehnen at IARPA, who is managing the contest. At present, a security officer must roll a person’s fingers across a surface, one at a time, to make sure they get a set of full prints.