2-D Bar Codes And Fingerprints - Data On The Move
Systems integrator Image Computing, Inc. designs portable solutions using 2-D bar codes and fingerprint verification. Is this a possible solution for you to sell to your customers?.
In The Beginning
"We started in fingerprint technology in 1996," explains Lowe, "and developed a fingerprint system to pursue commercial and government business. It started with technical expertise and image processing, signal processing, image recognition, system engineering, and software development. We pulled all of this knowledge together and created a system that allows users to enroll into systems, such as time and attendance, with their fingerprints. Users can also issue ID cards, and conduct one-to-one and one-to-many matching with fingerprints."
The Growth Of The Technology
Today, ICI is known for the way it ties bar coding and fingerprints together. "Most of the growth in information technology and management is concentrated on gathering data and centralizing it," he explains. "There is heavy use of relational databases, data transmission, and data connectivity."
"We found that 2-D bar codes and fingerprint technology are quite similar, because basically, a fingerprint could be considered as a human bar code. It identifies who we are; since no two fingerprints are alike, we can use them to verify that we are indeed who we say we are. At first, we concentrated on fingerprints - developing the technology and building the systems that could enhance image processing. We also created algorithms (software templates) to use fingerprints for identity verification. As 2-D bar codes came along, we started to see similarities in the two technologies, and it gave us the idea to bring fingerprints and bar codes together."
The advantages of fingerprints are that they last forever and are unique to each person. Two-dimensional bar codes offer the advantage of programmability. ICI discovered a way to transfer a fingerprint into digital information through an algorithm, and then write that information in a series of black lines and white spaces.
"These bars contain all of the programmed information," Lowe explains. "This information is displayed in a pattern that allows for a significant error recovery rate. It's so significant, in fact, that I could punch holes in the 2-D bar code, and it could still be read with any scanner using that same algorithm. The information would be decoded instead of encoded. We can also capture a photo or demographic data and integrate it into the bar code." The bar codes don't require any unique or proprietary hardware, which makes it a cost-effective solution.
So, How Is It Used?
ICI works with large companies, such as Unisys, to install larger programs like the national ID program for Costa Rica. "We act as the system integration contractor for Unisys," Lowe explains. "In this installation, we focused on the technical performance of the system. This meant meeting the initial design requirements, modeling the performance, and creating an effective throughput and response time, system accuracy, and customer acceptance. We manage all of the mechanics (development, installation, and training), but we focus on the technical performance (design, model, and throughput). Unisys provides a majority of the funding, as well as the ‘big name' for brand recognition."
The end user - in this case the Costa Rican government - benefits from a national identification system that allows the country to issue 5 million ID cards to its citizens. ICI developed a client/server database management system that recognizes an individual's fingerprint and creates a biometric that uniquely identifies that individual. ICI worked with numerous departments of government to incorporate positive identification into a single system that issues a single card for healthcare, social services, and immigration. The Costa Ricans can also use it as a driver's license. ICI is also entirely responsible for a similar installation in New Jersey where state employees apply for benefits.
Moving From The Government To Commercial Markets
ICI's looking for growth in the commercial market, as opposed to its standard government-based installations. Biometric-related installations can be used in a commercial setting for building access or for ID verification.
For example, a company may want to validate who its employees are, so it issues ID cards encoded with each employee's fingerprints. Upon entering work, the employees scan their cards and their fingerprints to make sure the fingerprint matches the one on the card. If a worker is sent from a different location, the card identifies the location the person came from, through the help of the fingerprint. The card can also contain credentials and any other information needed to verify that the correct person is showing up for the job.
"Think of the technology being used in commercial terms with credit cards," Lowe explains. "If the card contained a 2-D bar code with an encoded fingerprint, the credit card could contain an account number, the encoded fingerprint, and even a photo to ensure the right person is using the card."
While the technology needed for commercial success is already here, Lowe believes the industry and technology are moving faster than public demand. "The government recognizes the value of issuing only one passport to each individual. The public hasn't realized the value of personal identification. But, as e-commerce grows, we will be performing more transactions from remote locations. Added levels of security, such as using fingerprint recognition to enter a computer system or matching an encoded fingerprint with a fingerprint stored in a database, will help the biometrics industry grow."
The Benefit To VARs
So what does this mean to VARs and systems integrators? Don't have a narrow technology focus. VARs in automatic identification and data collection (AIDC) and biometrics can benefit from this technology cross by effectively partnering with other companies.
"There is room for VARs and systems integrators in this technology," comments Lowe. "But, anyone considering entering this market should be aware that large jobs have long sales cycles that require a great deal of time and presence. That's another reason why I'd like to get smaller- or medium-sized jobs. Commercial or retail aspects are the way to go. There's a lot of red tape tied into government-related jobs."