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Fingerprinting Infants Helps Track Vaccinations in Developing Countries

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A health official in Benin, Africa, scans a babys fingerprints for entry into a vaccination database.

Michigan State University researchers have used funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a fingerprint-scanning system to track pediatric vaccinations.

Credit: Sunpreet Arora/Michigan State University

Developing countries could be able to track pediatric vaccinations with greater accuracy using a fingerprint-scanning system developed by Michigan State University (MSU) researchers with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The researchers have created software that makes it possible to precisely match fingerprints of children under five using commercially available equipment. The researchers were tasked with processing images captured by fingerprint sensors using software to compensate for the small size of the children's prints, along with wet and oily skin. They also enhanced accuracy by generating matches based on both thumbs and index fingers.

A trial in Africa demonstrated the software was about 70-percent accurate in matching prints, versus 98-percent accuracy in a Michigan-based trial. The disparity in accuracy was attributable to the outdoor setting of the African clinic, which was dusty and humid.

MSU professor Anil Jain thinks the software's accuracy can be raised to 95 percent in such conditions; he says the technology also is usable "in any healthcare scenario where you have the potential for fraud, such as insurance fraud."

Further tests of the technology are planned, with India being a potential test site because it already has a national biometric ID program.

From Technology Review
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