fingerscanning (fingerprint scanning)

Fingerscanning, also called fingerprint scanning, is the process of electronically obtaining and storing human fingerprints. The digital image obtained by such scanning is called a finger image. In some texts, the terms fingerprinting and fingerprint are used, but technically, these terms refer to traditional ink-and-paper processes and images.

Fingerscanning is a biometric process, because it involves the automated capture, analysis, and comparison of a specific characteristic of the human body. There are several different ways in which an instrument can bring out the details in the pattern of raised areas (called ridges) and branches (called bifurcations) in a human finger image. The most common methods are optical, thermal, and tactile. They work using visible light analysis, heat-emission analysis, and pressure analysis, respectively.

Biometric fingerscanning offers improvements over ink-and-paper imaging. A complete set of fingerscans for a person (10 images, including those of the thumbs) can be easily copied, distributed, and transmitted over computer networks. In addition, computers can quickly analyze a fingerscan and compare it with thousands of other fingerscans, as well as with fingerprints obtained by traditional means and then digitally photographed and stored. This greatly speeds up the process of searching finger image records in criminal investigations.

This was last updated in September 2005

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