UCSD researchers develop fingerprint scanner for newborns

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Researchers at UC San Diego have advanced the science of biometric identification, creating a novel technology that can capture the fingerprints of infants and children, even on the first day of birth. (Photo: UCSD Health)

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego researchers Wednesday announced the development of a hand-scanning device that can collect fingerprints from children as early as the first day of birth.

Identifying children and infants is a necessity in remote and resource- limited areas but fingerprinting technology hadn’t been optimized for infants and young children in the past. The handheld, portable device, called ION, scans the fingers and palm of the hand as encrypted templates that can be accessed across platforms. Researchers chose fingerprint scanning over facial recognition technology because of cultural differences in some areas where facial photography is shunned.

“Accurate identification of a child to enable timely vaccinations can improve care, reduce disease burden and save lives,” said Dr. Eliah Aronoff-Spencer. “This is just the beginning. Consider the usefulness of health identification to track not only vaccinations, but to aid or prevent infectious disease outbreaks. Consider that a person’s identity can now be secured at birth, potentially protecting from identity fraud many years in the future.”

ION is also highly accurate with adult identification, according to Aronoff-Spencer and his team. Researchers plan to add the ability to measure biometric data like temperature, pulse and oxygen levels. UCSD is currently collaborating with researchers in Mexico on a clinical trial for the ION device. Early data from the trial show ION’s accuracy is higher than 99 percent on re-identification when a subject is scanned as early as two days after birth and 90 percent accuracy on the day of birth.

“The next stage is to take the device into the field in Africa and South Asia and broaden the populations we evaluate,” Aronoff-Spencer said. “While the device is not yet commercially available, we hope to have it ready for market within 12 months. We want to continue to validate the platform, work through workflow, security and ethical issues, and, with funding, make the technology available on a staged basis to non-governmental organizations and government programs at local and national levels.”

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