In the biometric process of fingerscanning, a ridge is a curved line in a finger image. Some ridges are continuous curves, and others terminate at specific points called ridge endings. Sometimes, two ridges come together at a point called a bifurcation. Ridge endings and bifurcations are known as minutiae.
The number and locations of the minutiae vary from finger to finger in any particular person, and from person to person for any particular finger (for example, the index finger on the left hand). When a set of finger images is obtained from an individual, the number of minutiae is recorded for each finger. The precise locations of the minutiae are also recorded, in the form of numerical coordinates, for each finger. The result is a function that can be entered and stored in a computer database. A computer can rapidly compare this function with that of anyone else in the world whose finger image has been scanned.
In theory, if a complete set of finger images was obtained for every person in the world, and the minutiae analyzed and recorded with sufficient accuracy, it would be possible for a single computer to determine the identity of any individual within seconds.