Fingerprint technology uses a person's fingerprints to identify him through fingerprint scanning. This technology is used not only in security systems, but also in the field of forensic science and crime scene investigations. It can even be found on gadgets found in the home, such as certain laptop computers.
Each individual has a different set of fingerprints from every other individual in the world. This is often referred to as a biometric fingerprint. Biometrics is the study of how humans differ from each other based on biological factors, such as how each person's fingerprints form differently. Even identical twins do not share the exact same set of fingerprints. A person's fingerprints are like an identification card.
To use a fingerprint scanner, the person places his hand or finger onto the scanner. The machine then scans the fingertips to generate a picture of the tiny lines and ridges that make up the fingerprint. It puts together a detailed image of this fingerprint and stores it for later use. The fingerprint is connected to the name of the person for future reference.
Optical fingerprint scanners use small points of light, much like a home video camera does, to record the fingerprint. A capacitive scanner uses an electrical current to create the image. Both send out a certain type of signal, light or electrical, which records a tiny part of the fingerprint. After the entire fingerprint is recorded, all the tiny parts are put together to form a whole picture.
In investigating a crime, investigators search for latent fingerprints. Latent fingerprints are any prints left behind that cannot be seen by the naked eye. Typically a fingerprint will not be obvious, but anything the criminal touched with his bare hands will have a fingerprint on it. Investigators use dusting, among other methods, to find and collect fingerprints for later identification. Later on they can compare the fingerprints they collected with the fingerprints of the list of suspects.
Security is another area where fingerprint technology comes into play. Using fingerprint scanners, security systems can allow or deny access to a computer or a door by scanning a person's finger. It compares this scan to the database of authorized fingerprints, and if there is no match then the person does not get access.
The drawback to fingerprint technology is the cost. While smaller systems are dropping in price, the cost of installing a security system for a large company that depends entirely on fingerprint technology would become expensive. Currently certain areas may use the technology while others stick with traditional methods.