Fingerprint encryption eliminates fraud
Credit-card companies are always seeking new methods to reduce fraud. Now, thanks to a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant, SY Technology (Huntsville, AL) may have the answer. Using an optical phase encryption method to encode fingerprints on credit cards, the company hopes to eliminate fraudulent credit-card use.
"Representing fingerprints as phase patterns makes them virtually impossible to read or copy by ordinary optical and electronic means," says Eric Johnson, a principal investigator with SY Technology. "When used in conjunction with other data represented magnetically, a virtually foolproof security system is possible."
To test the method, a prototype system was constructed to perform optical correlations of phase-encoded data. To correlate fingerprints from a database with those being scanned, archived fingerprints were stored as intensity patterns, converted to phase-only patterns, and displayed on an LCD-based spatial light modulator (SLM). At the same time, a CCD attached to a frame grabber digitizes fingerprint images and converts the data to phase information. This is displayed on the SLM with the phase-encrypted database image. By optically performing a fast-Fourier-transform on the resultant image, the two fingerprint images can be correlated in real time and the results displayed on a monitor.
Since this research was done, SY technology has used optical phase encryption methods to encode fingerprint data on 20-mm-thick photopolymer and thin polyimide film. Use of optical correlators at automatic teller machines in banks to read phase-encrypted fingerprint data could reduce credit card fraud by more than $1 billion annually, according to Jim Brasher, a consultant working with SY Technology.