Most fingerprint scanners work the same way – the pad of the finger is pressed against the scanner’s glass surface, light is shone through the glass onto it, and the light that’s reflected back by the minuscule valleys between the print’s ridges is used to create an image of the print. It’s a system that’s usually effective, although it can fail to read prints that have been flattened by age or damaged, plus it can be fooled by gelatine casts of fingerprints. That’s why scientists from the Paris-based Langevin Institute have developed a more reliable scanner, that looks below the skin's surface.
Because regular cameras just process visible light, the images that they produce look like what we see with our own eyes. By contrast, hyperspectral cameras process additional wavelengths, showing us things that we wouldn't otherwise be able to see. Unfortunately, they also tend to be big, expensive, and thus limited to scientific or industrial applications. That could be about to change, however, as scientists from the University of Washington and Microsoft Research are creating a compact, inexpensive consumer hyperspectral camera. It may even find its way into your smartphone.
There are already several methods of identifying cattle –
branding, ear tags, tattooing and ear notching all come to mind. Now,
however, Egyptian scientists are working on a new biometric system that's less
invasive and more difficult to thwart: electronic muzzle-printing.