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Happy Feet - research into baby footprints as an infant biometric

posted on 27.05.2020, 01:11 by Kathy Horadam, Stephen Davis, JODIE MCVERNON
The pressing infant biometric problem is to find a biometric means to identify infants cheaply, reliably, and automatically. Physical traits of infants are tiny, delicate, and grow rapidly. The authors focus on a novel area of friction-ridge skin as a potential answer: the ball under the big toe. The ballprint is readily accessible, with more features and larger ridges than a fingerprint. The authors followed 54 newborns for 2 years, capturing their ballprints with an adult fingerprint scanner within 3 days of birth, at 2 months, at 6 months, and at 2 years. The authors show the growth of the ballprint is isotropic rather than affine during infancy. The isotropic growth rate from birth can be measured by the change in inter-ridge spacing, which the authors show precisely mirrors change in physical length from birth, as recorded by World Health Organisation for large, diverse infant populations. From 2 months of age, by using isotropic scaling to compensate for growth, the authors successfully matched good quality images with 0% equal error rate using existing adult fingerprint technology, even for captures 22 months apart. These findings flag the value of ballprints as a practical means of infant identification, by themselves, or together or sequentially with other biometrics.

Sample data attached, full data set available from author on request.


To test whether infant footprints captured by low-tech mobile phone cameras could provide a biometric identification system for use in immunization programs.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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Novel dissimilarity techniques for characterising noisy spatial networks

Australian Research Council

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School of Science