Fingerprints have been used to confirm or determine peoples' identities for over one hundred years now, but new technology is allowing them to be put to another use - drug testing. Intelligent Fingerprinting (a spin-off company affiliated with the UK's University of East Anglia) has just unveiled a prototype portable device that can detect the presence of illicit drugs or other substances in a person's system by analyzing the sweat in their fingerprints.

The device uses disposable cartridges, which reportedly do not require specialist handling or biohazard precautions. Also, because one person's drug results are tied to a visual record of their fingerprints, the technology is said to be almost impossible to cheat, or to dispute. The entire process only takes a few minutes.

Possible applications include workplace drug screening, criminal forensic work, and homeland security. David Russell, CTO of Intelligent Fingerprinting and Professor of Chemistry at UEA's School of Chemistry, Intelligent Fingerprinting has stated that down the road, the device could also be used to detect non-illicit drugs or other health markers. It is scheduled to go into production next year.

Scientists from Imperial College London have also been researching the analysis of fingerprint residue to determine factors such as the diet, race and sex of a suspected criminals.