RIT Professor Helps Company Perfect Fingerprinting-ID Device

NYSTAR’s Center for Advanced Technology helps Ultra-Scan Corp. meet FBI standards

A Rochester Institute of Technology scientist with a passion for ultrasound is applying his medical imaging know-how to help a Buffalo-based company fine-tune its unique fingerprinting-identification device.

Navalgund Rao, associate professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, has teamed up with Ultra-Scan Corp., the maker of ultrasonic finger scanners for companies, organizations and government agencies.

Ultrasound, also known as ultrasonics, uses high-frequency sound waves above 20 kilohertz to read information through barriers. The technology is commonly used to scan the ocean floor, to “see” beneath the earth’s surface in search of gas and oil, and to monitor the development of a fetus.

Ultra-Scan repurposes ultrasound to read fingerprints. The technology’s accuracy surpasses other methods of fingerprinting—such as optical imaging and the old inkpad method—because sound waves can pierce through grease and dirt that could obscure a reading.

“The false rate is so low,” Rao says. “It’s convenient, it’s fast. In less than 30 seconds it will scan a fingerprint and identify if your fingerprint is in the database.”

Rao—whose regular research interests apply ultrasonic imaging to medical diagnostics—entered the project by way of happenstance and a bit of Internet surfing.

“I was searching on the Internet to see who else was working on ultrasound,” Rao says. “I happened to come across their Web page. Georgia Giummarra, then a research administrator in CIS, helped me get in touch with John Schneider, the chief technology officer at Ultra-Scan.”

Likewise, Schneider was looking for an ultrasound physicist to work with him on problems that his company lacked time to investigate.

“We were delighted to find an institution and an individual such as RIT and Dr. Rao to collaborate with us on our product testing,” says Schneider. “It is with continued university/industry relations such as this that will allow Ultra-Scan to remain the uncontested leader in Live-scan Ultrasonic Identification Systems.”

“It was just at the right time and the right place,” Rao says. “It was amazing to me how this happened.”

The collaborative project was made possible by a $30,000 grant administered by the Center for Electronic Imaging Systems, a New York state office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) designated Center for Advanced Technology, and matching funds from Ultra-Scan.

Rao and visiting assistant professor Maria Helguera, who received her doctorate under Rao, along with graduate student Laura Blair are currently characterizing the finger-scanning device provided by Ultra-Scan and developing test targets to determine its quality metrics.

“We in imaging science know how to perform end-to-end analysis of a given imaging system and come up with experimental methods to measure system parameters such as Modulation Transfer Function or MTF,” Rao says.

Rao and his students take the data with a high frequency/high resolution ultrasound transducer, analyze it and then derive MTF information from it.

“Frequency and resolution is much higher here than in medical ultrasound and that provides the element of challenge and excitement,” he says.

Rao’s work will help Ultra-Scan delineate the test procedures that will be used to verify compliance of ultrasound-based integrated automated fingerprint-identification system (IAFIS) standards issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


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