The Thuringia, Germany–based startup firm IDloop, which is attempting to bring to market a 3D contactless fingerprint scanner with 10-µm resolution, has secured €10 million (US$10.6 million) from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator program.
The EIC Accelerator—one of several EIC programs set up under the latest European Commission (EC) research funding framework, Horizon Europe—provides grant funding and targeted investment for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with a particular aim to “develop and scale up game-changing innovations.” IDloop, which was founded in 2021, will use the €10 million chunk of EIC cash to support “the further development of the [IDloop] system to market readiness.” The firm says it’s the first company from central Germany to qualify for the EIC Accelerator.
Addressing current deficiencies
The IDloop device is targeted squarely at the perceived deficiencies of contact-based fingerprint capture methods—which range from the classic inked finger, rolled on a paper sheet, to more evolved optical scanners that leverage frustrated total internal reflection or other approaches. Such scanners, the company maintains, are “unhygienic,” and also time-consuming and inconvenient to use.
These and other deficiencies have encouraged researchers and engineers to take a stab at contactless approaches. But many of the contactless techniques trialed thus far have their own issues, according to IDloop. Perhaps the biggest problem is that they aren’t able to match their data against current fingerprint databases, which consist of 2D images captured almost entirely using contact-based technologies. That’s not a minor hiccup; IDloop says the fingerprints of more than three billion persons are registered in such contact-based databases.
Structured light meets AI
The system IDloop is attempting to commercialize tries to get around these problems through a combination of sophisticated optics, machine learning and fast processing. The device, which measures 15 cm on a side, sprays structured light across the subject’s hand, and captures a 3D point cloud of data from the reflected light field. Those data are then piped to AI-based software, running on high-performance graphics processing units (GPUs), for processing and correction of artifacts such as the inevitable movement of the hand or finger during scanning. The company claims that the process results in 3D data with a spatial resolution of 10 µm.
From the 3D data collected, the system cleverly next computes a 2D grayscale image, similar to a “classic” fingerprint image. This can be compared and matched against data from traditional contact-based fingerprint systems—potentially overcoming a significant hangup of previous contactless approaches. Contactless data capture and post-processing for two hands takes around 10 seconds, according to IDloop.
In a press release accompanying the announcement of the EIC Accelerator funding, the company’s CEO, Jörg Reinhold, called micrometer-accurate detection of moving objects “one of the challenging tasks in biometric image capture,” and claimed that the firm has “managed to fit this complex issue into an easy-to-use device measuring just 15×15×15 cm.”