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Novel infant biometric tracking invention could curb child trafficking, fraud

“Although the use of biometrics could help prevent such cases; existing biometric recognition systems are developed for use on adults, as children are still undergoing development and the most commonly used biometrics have not stabilised, such as facial appearance.”
“Although the use of biometrics could help prevent such cases; existing biometric recognition systems are developed for use on adults, as children are still undergoing development and the most commonly used biometrics have not stabilised, such as facial appearance.”
Image: 123RF/ ra2studio

The exploitation of children’s identities to defraud government welfare could soon be a thing of the past.

Child trafficking could also be abated, if a team of scientists at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) make headway with developing a unique system that will be able to verify people’s identities from infancy right through to adulthood. The system is set to use the biometrics captured at birth.

Currently, only the home affairs department uses fingerprints to link citizens to a single identity. This is necessary to prevent people from having more than one identity which could open the floodgates for fraud.

According to the CSIR team, children can be linked to more than one identity and “this is being exploited to defraud the social security system where people apply for child support grants for the care of one child using different identities for the child.

“Although the use of biometrics could help prevent such cases; existing biometric recognition systems are developed for use on adults, as children are still undergoing development and the most commonly used biometrics have not stabilised, such as facial appearance.”

This has prompted the scientists to probe the biometrics that “would be best suitable for the recognition of minors as they age”.

These include fingerprints, outer ear shape and iris. Once they identify the suitable biometric,  the scientists plan to “develop software algorithms required to perform the recognition using the biometric. The team will also look at repeatable methods to reliably capture samples of the chosen biometric of newborns and children.”  

The scientists, Yaseen Moolla, Anton de Kock, Gugulethu Mabuza, Cynthia Sthembile Ntshangase, Portia Khanyile and Norman Nelufule, detailed their novel plan in a study titled Biometric Recognition of Infants using Fingerprint, Iris and Ear Biometrics published earlier this year.

“Biometric recognition is often used for adults for a variety of purposes where an individual’s identity must be ascertained,” the study reads.

However, the biometric recognition of children is an unsolved challenge. Solving this challenge could protect children from identity theft and identity fraud, help in reuniting lost children with their parents, improve border control systems in combating child trafficking, and assist in electronic record-keeping systems.

“In order to begin the development of biometric recognition systems for children, researchers collected fingerprint, iris, and outer ear shape biometric information from infants.”

According to the scientists, hardware can be developed to acquire fingerprints from infants, with participants as young as six weeks old and record infants fingerprint information in a “format that is compatible with existing fingerprint comparison software”.

“It has been found that ear biometrics are easy to acquire from birth and existing algorithms which were developed for adult ears do work for infants ears as well,” the study reads.  

“We have also shown that iris biometrics can be used to successfully match individuals from as early as six weeks and that the acquisition rate improves as children become older. Recommendations were provided on ways in which to combine these modalities in future work, to create more robust and more accurate biometric recognition systems for infants and to extend these systems for effective use from birth to adulthood.

“Further work will include improvements on the acquisition hardware and the multimodal fusion of biometrics to create strong, flexible and a more robust biometric recognition system for infants. The introduction of different biometrics at different ages in various use-cases will be investigated.”

TimesLIVE


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