The uniqueness

of fingerprints

by Xiaoqiang Gu

Xiaoqiang Gu is PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Electrical Engineering

Xiaoqiang Gu is PhD Candidate at Polytechnique School of Montreal in Electrical Engineering

Fingerprints are the tiny ridges, whorls and valley patterns on the tip of each finger. They form from pressure on a baby's tiny, developing fingers in the womb. No two people have been found to have the same fingerprints — they are totally unique. There's a one in 64 billion chance that your fingerprint will match up exactly with someone else's.

Artwork from Adidas fingerprint iphone wallpaper

Artwork from Adidas fingerprint iphone wallpaper

Fingerprints are even more unique than DNA, the genetic material in each of our cells. Although identical twins can share the same DNA — or at least most of it — they can't have the same fingerprints.

The discovery that fingerprints are unique to each individual, are left behind on objects a person touches and can be lifted off those items is nothing short of miraculous. This discovery completely changed the way that law enforcement conducted investigations. In today’s modern age, Jack the Ripper would eventually be caught. Even though it was 1823 when Jan Evangelista Purkinje noticed how unique our fingerprints are, it took some time for law enforcement to figure out ways to use this knowledge.

Today, this discovery is widely used in our daily life not just police work. For example, Apple's biometric fingerprint authentication technology has been introduced successfully. With it, the Home button can now unlock your cell phone and authorize your purchases online. A capacitive ring activates the scanner on contact which then takes a high-resolution picture of your fingerprint. That fingerprint is then converted into a mathematical formula, encrypted, and carried over a hardware channel to a secure enclave on the chipset. If the fingerprint is recognized, a "yes" token is released. If it's not, a "no" token is released.