Digital scans of a young child's fingerprint can be correctly recognised one year later, and this can improve record-keeping and vaccination in developing countries like India, suggest researchers.
This is because fingerprint records in digital format can help public health officials better track the children and easily monitor whether they got vaccinated or received targeted nutrition services and food.
Anil Jain, Professor at Michigan State University, and his team showed they can correctly identify children six months old over 99 per cent of the time based on their two thumbprints.
A child could then be identified at each medical visit by a simple fingerprint scan, allowing them to get proper medical care such as life-saving immunisations or food supplements.
"Despite efforts of international health organisations and NGOs, children are still dying because it's been believed that it wasn't possible to use body traits such as fingerprints to identify children. We've just proven it is possible," Jain said in a university statement.
"As the technology further evolves, there are many social good applications for this new technique with far-reaching impacts on a global scale," Jain noted.
"At a touch of a finger, health care workers could have access to a child's medical history. Whether in a developing nation, refugee camp, homeless shelter or, heaven forbid, a kidnapping situation, a child's identity could be verified if they had their fingerprint scanned at birth and included in a registry," he explained.
One such application is saving lives by tracking vaccination records. Vaccination records are traditionally kept on paper charts, but paper is easily lost or destroyed. Fingerprints are forever, and, once captured in a database, could be accessed by medical professionals to reliably record immunisation schedules and other medical information.
"The impact of child fingerprinting will be enormous in improving lives of the disadvantaged," Sandeep Ahuja, CEO of Operation ASHA, an NGO dedicated to bringing tuberculosis treatment and health services to India, said.
The study by Jain and his team was conducted at Saran Ashram hospital in Dayalbagh, Agra, Uttar Pradesh where fingerprints of 309 children between the age of zero-five years were collected over the course of one year.
The fingerprint data was processed to show that state-of-the-art fingerprint capture and recognition technology offers a viable solution for recognising children enrolled at age six months or older.
"Given these encouraging results, we plan to continue the longitudinal study by capturing fingerprints of the same subjects annually for four more years," said Jain.
"This will allow us to better evaluate the use of fingerprints for providing lifelong identity," Jain noted.
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