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NEC’s fingerprint identification technology is acclaimed worldwide

Biometric authentication is fast becoming one of the most popular and secure methods of identity verification, ideal for logging into PCs or bank ATMs. NEC is one of the world’s leading developers of biometric authentication technologies. NEC has more than 40 years of experience in fingerprint identification technology and ranks first in identification accuracy.

Initially, fingerprint identification research and development focused on improving the efficiency of fingerprint identification in criminal investigation. Today, keeping pace with changing social requirements, applications for fingerprint identification are now expanding into our everyday lives.

In the following article, we will look back at NEC’s involvement in fingerprint identification technology by referring to relevant articles and papers in back issues of NEC Technical Journal.

Promoting public safety and security by enhancing the efficiency and sophistication of criminal investigation

NEC began research and development of automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) in 1971. After more than a decade of intensive development, NEC delivered the first working system to the Japanese National Police Agency in 1982.

Considering the fact that prior to the introduction of NEC’s first AFIS, fingerprint identification procedures had been performed manually on a case-by-case basis, it is not hard to imagine the enormous gains in efficiency made possible by the new computer-based automation system, and how these in turn spurred rapid advances in criminal investigation success rates.

Unsurprisingly, demand for AFIS technology in the areas of law enforcement and judiciary increased rapidly, not only in Japan but worldwide, NEC’s AFIS quickly established itself as a dominant player worldwide — for example, in 1984 the San Francisco Police Department introduced the system. It is no exaggeration to say that today NEC’s AFIS is a key element of safety and security systems around the world.

The core of NEC’s AFIS is its exclusive Minutiae and Related Method used for identifying fingerprints. Development of this method drew on all of NEC’s technological capabilities, both in hardware and software. (Facsimiles were used to exchange fingerprint images at that time. NEC has a long history of innovation in the field of phototelegraphic equipment, so naturally, this is something that NEC is good at.)

Fingerprint positive identification increasingly common in daily life

Until now, AFISs have been primarily used in the area of law enforcement, but today application of fingerprint-based positive identification (PID) technology is spreading to a wide range of fields such as national ID numbering and immigration where high security is required.

To meet these needs, NEC released the AFIS21 in 1994. This was a downsized, open system, which used the same identification method and maintained the same level of accuracy as the conventional AFIS. The AFIS21 incorporated both the AFIS system for law enforcement fields and the PID system for non-law enforcement fields. The system was developed with the expectation that PID applications would expand rapidly in the future.

This PID system was exhibited at TELECOM 95 held by the ITU (in October 1995). Visitors were able to experience actual fingerprint registration, card issuance, and identification on the spot.

Following its introduction of a PID system at Telecom 95, NEC continued with its research and development of PID systems and introduced its first product - the SecureFinger fingerprint identification system - in 1999. Since then, SecureFinger has undergone repeated improvements and is still being marketed today.

The Intelligent Fingerprint Authentication System "SecureFinger"

Highly accurate AFIS(Automated Fingerprint Identification System) of NEC was developed in 1982 and many systems  have been installed for law enforcement offices in the world. The fingerprint feature extraction and comparison algorithm used in the AFIS were modified and adjusted so as to permit authentication of individual identity.

NEC Research & Development <Special Issue> Vol.43 No.1 (1, 2002)

Fingerprint Identification

Biometrics technology, which uses physical or behavioral characteristics to identify users, has come to attract increased attention as a means of reliable personal authentication that helps establish the identity of an actual user. Among various modalities of biometrics, fingerprints are known to have the longest history of actual use in law enforcement applications with proven performance. This paper surveys the state of the art in fingerprint identification technology.

NEC Journal of Advanced Technology <Special Issue> Vol.2 No.1 (Winter, 2005)

Technology that is always evolving — Ranked first in the world for identification accuracy

Cover of NEC Technical Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3
Cover of NEC Technical Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3

As soon as fingerprint PID technology reached the practical stage and started demonstrating application expandability, users began to demand even higher identification accuracy and processing speed.

NEC Technical Journal (March 2002), Vol. 55, No.3, focused on NEC’s fingerprint identification technology and its ongoing evolution in response to market requirements.

The featured articles in that issue highlighted NEC’s commitment to comprehensive research and development into fingerprint identification technology, taking an in-depth look at the basic technologies used to improve fingerprint identification accuracy, a palm print identification system that was developed based on those technologies, devices to process identification tasks at high speed, and a high-resolution fingerprint scanner to improve the input quality of fingerprints. A case study examined AFIS networks in the western region of the United States.

Today, NEC’s commitment to further research and development remains as firm as ever. Our technology has been assessed as the world’s highest level as evidenced by its number one ranking in the Fingerprint Vendor Technology Evaluation (FpVTE 2012 or FpVTE) conducted by the United States’ National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

It has been about a decade and a half since people started taking advantage of the convenience of biometric authentication for logging into PCs and positive identification at bank ATMs. That success would not have been possible without the many long years of research and development, as well as cooperation and coordination with customers to finalize and introduce the actual product. You can read about these R&D efforts and the evolution of fingerprint identification products in the NEC Technical Journal.

This article has focused on NEC’s fingerprint identification technology that is widely recognized all over the world. NEC also has superior face recognition technology — another key element in biometric authentication. We will introduce this technology in a future article.

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(Published July 10, 2015)