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Computers make fingerprint identification more consistent

July 3, 2013 at 2:58 PM   |   Comments

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., July 3 (UPI) -- Computer programs can give fingerprint grading, often subject to the subjectivity of the examiner, more consistency and objectivity, Penn State researchers say.

The quality of a fingerprint is often in the eye of the examiner, they said, which can mean identifications are problematic.

"People leave behind all kinds of fingerprints, and the job of a forensic examiner is then to look at a fingerprint and identify a person who could have left it," engineering science Professor Akhlesh Lakhtakia said. "Various scenarios can be envisioned where a fingerprint can be seriously altered. Once it is altered, it can conceivably lead the examiner to a false conclusion."

Fingerprints are subject to environmental weathering and smudging, and its subsequent condition affects how reliable a match can be between a collected print and prints on record, the researchers said, so knowing a fingerprint's dependability can minimize the chance of a wrongful or delayed conviction.

Lakhtakia's team created a process using computer programs to grade a fingerprint for the availability of ridge detail for subsequent identification, ensuring standardized evaluation to a degree finer than any human can accomplish.

"The quality of a fingerprint can be graded finer than on a zero, one, two, three scale," Lakhtakia said in a university release Wednesday. "Two-point-three percent is worse than 15 percent, but both could be graded as a zero by the naked eye. Humans can't grade finer than the zero to three scale. But computers can."

The ease and relative speed of this computer-based grading system may help to standardize fingerprint quality assessment in an inexpensive, efficient manner, the researchers said.

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