Technology and Fingerprint Identification Experts - Trust them Both

Yesterday, we saw some relatives off at the airport. After they left, my husband wanted to step into the office for a moment to retrieve some documents to work on. It seems they have now installed a biometrics system for access into the office. He placed his index finger on the little oblong glass piece but the system could not recognize his fingerprint. It just beeped and displayed a red light. He tried several times again before trying his other index finger, for both fingerprints were previously provided as “passwords”. Nope. He then moved to another reader along the same corridor but for a different room to see if that was working. That reader worked fine. So he came back to the first one and tried again and again but in vain. Wiped his finger and tried, wiped the glass and tried, tried it fast, tried it slow and still no luck.

OK. Maybe that’s good – no office work on a Sunday – but it got me wondering, what if it was emergency and he needed to retrieve something urgently. If it was a system to sign in attendance like how the security guards do at some places, and if the reader kept failing like this, I can imagine them feeling helpless and somewhat frustrated, especially if they showed up for work. Then again, maybe they’d be happy to have an excuse to scoot off cos they can’t get in : )

Back to the new sophisticated technology, the system was supposed to “know” him and yet that knowledge could not be retrieved for his identity to be validated. Is it because of the reader was faulty? Or maybe it read the fingerprint fine but could not match samples fast enough before time out? Maybe it could not match any fingerprints at all? (As you can see, I’m guessing). He was not complaining for when I asked him who handled the job, it turns out it was one of his staff! Fair enough, the system is new and they are just ironing out the teething issues.

I used to be quite impressed with how crime investigators, my brother-in-law having been one, could determine identities of suspects/culprits just from fingerprints. Back then when he was with the CID, the work was manual and they had specialists to study the “design markings” (there’s probably a more scientific term for this) of the print and match them with prints from their files. Of course, that takes a longer time (can’t comment about probability of success – may be just as good). Then, the FIDS (fingerprint identification system) was introduced. Both methods were more for post-event use to help them determine identities based on fingerprints gathered at crime scenes, like an audit trail in a system. With biometrics, it is very much used as an authentication mechanism and so is pre-event. Either way, the over-reliance on systems could have significant dire consequences, especially if there are no back-up mechanisms to help with tracing or authentication.

Think it would be interesting to elicit some expert knowledge on recognising fingerprints before this knowledge disappears… and should the systems all fail us!

0 Comment so far

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

Comment Guidelines: Basic XHTML is allowed (<strong>, <em>, <a>) Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically generated. URLs are automatically converted into links.