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What is Fingerprint Recognition

December 25, 2017
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Fingerprint Recognition is one of the most well-known and publicized biometrics. Because of their uniqueness and consistency over time, fingerprints have been used for identification for over a century, more recently becoming automated (i.e. a biometric) due to advancements in computing capabilities. Fingerprint identification is popular because of the inherent ease in acquisition, the numerous sources (ten fingers) available for collection, and their established use and collections by law enforcement and immigration.

Introduction of Fingerprint Recognition

Fingerprint recognition is one of most popular and accuracy Biometric technologies. Fingerprint recognition (identification) is one of the oldest methods of identification with biometric traits. Large no. of archeological artifacts and historical items shows the signs of fingerprints of human on stones. The ancient people were aware about the individuality of fingerprint, but they were not aware of scientific methods of finding individuality.

Fingerprints have remarkable permanency and uniqueness throughout the time. Fingerprints offer more secure and reliable personal identification than passwords, id-cards or key can provide. Examples such as computers and mobile phones equipped with fingerprint sensing devices for fingerprint based password protection are being implemented to replace ordinary password protection methods.

Finger-scan technology is the most widely deployed biometric technology, with a number of different vendors offering a wide range of solutions. Among the most remarkable strengths of fingerprint recognition, we can mention the following:

  • Its maturity, providing a high level of recognition accuracy.
  • The growing market of low-cost small-size acquisition devices, allowing its use in a broad range of applications, e.g., electronic commerce, physical access, PC logon, etc.
  • The use of easy-to-use, ergonomic devices, not requiring complex user-system interaction. On the other hand, a number of weaknesses may influence the effectiveness of fingerprint recognition in certain cases:
  • Its association with forensic or criminal applications

State of the Art in Fingerprint Recognition

This section provides a basic introduction to fingerprint recognition systems and their main parts, including a brief description of the most widely used techniques and algorithms.

Main Modules of a Fingerprint Verification System

Figure 1: Main Modules of a Fingerprint Verification System

The main modules of a fingerprint verification system are: a) fingerprint sensing, in which the fingerprint of an individual is acquired by a fingerprint scanner to produce a raw digital representation; b) preprocessing, in which the input fingerprint is enhanced and adapted to simplify the task of feature extraction; c) feature extraction, in which the fingerprint is further processed to generate discriminative properties, also called feature vectors; and d) matching, in which the feature vector of the input fingerprint is compared against one or more existing templates. The templates of approved users of the biometric system, also called clients, are usually stored in a database. Clients can claim an identity and their fingerprints can be checked against stored fingerprints.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Fingerprint Recognition


  • Proven technology capable of high levels of accuracy
  • Range of deployment environments
  • Ergonomic easy to use devices
  • Ability to enroll multiple fingers


  • Inability to enroll some users
  • Performance deterioration over time
  • Association with forensic applications
  • Need to deploy specialized devices

Applications of Fingerprint Recognition

  • Fingerprint recognition is widely used in various applications ranging from law enforcement and international border control to personal laptop access. Almost all law enforcement agencies worldwide routinely collect fingerprints of apprehended criminals to track their criminal history.
  • To enhance border security in the United States, the US-VISIT program acquires fingerprints of visa applicants to identify high profile criminals on a watch list and detect possible visa fraud. India’s UIDAI project was initiated to issue a unique 12-digit identification number to each resident. Given the large population in India (approximately 1.2 billion), an identification number for an individual is associated with his biometric information (i.e., ten fingerprints and two irises) to ensure that each resident has only one identification number.
  • Fingerprint recognition systems are now pervasive in our daily life. Disney Parks, for example, captures fingerprints of visitors when they initially enter the park to link the ticket to the ticket holder’s fingerprint.
  • Fingerprint verification is performed whenever the same ticket is presented for reuse to prevent fraudulent use of the ticket (e.g., sharing of a ticket by multiple individuals).
  • Many automated teller machines (ATMs) in Brazil use fingerprint recognition as a replacement for personal identification numbers (PINs).
  • Also, several laptop computer models are equipped with fingerprint sensors and authenticate users based on their fingerprints


[1] “CHAPTER – 2: Introduction to Fingerprint and Face Recognition”, available online at:

[2] Fierrez, Hartwig Fronthaler, Klaus Kollreider, and Javier Ortega-Garcia, “Fingerprint Recognition”, pp. 51-90.

[3] Om Sri, Satyasai, and Tatsat Naik, “Study of Fingerprint Recognition System” Btech dissertation, 2011.

[4] Le Hoang Thai and Ha Nhat Tam, “Fingerprint recognition using standardized fingerprint model”, IJCSI International Journal of Computer Science Issues, Volume 7, Issue 3, No 7, May 2010

[5] Soweon Yoon, “Fingerprint recognition: models and applications”, Michigan State University, 2014.



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