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A Guide to Fingerprint Scanner Standards and Certifications

Biometric Post
Apr 28, 2023
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Biometric Post
A Guide to Fingerprint Scanner Standards and Certifications

Choosing the ideal fingerprint scanner for your project can be a daunting task. With a plethora of applications, ranging from national ID and voter registration to border control, banking KYC, employee attendance management, and personal computer security, it's essential to understand the various industry standards and certifications that govern these devices. This knowledge will help you select a fingerprint scanner that meets the unique requirements of your project while adhering to safety and security regulations, particularly for large-scale applications.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll break down the most relevant industry standards and certifications from international and U.S. governing bodies, such as ISO, ANSI, NIST, FBI, and the UIDAI. We'll present this information in a user-friendly, engaging format with real-life examples to make it easily digestible for project managers, system integrators, and potential customers from non-technical backgrounds. So, let's explore what these standards and certifications are and why they're so important for ensuring the success of your fingerprint systems.

The Importance of Standards and Certifications for Fingerprint Scanners

Why Standards and Certifications Matter?

When selecting a fingerprint scanner for your project, it's essential to consider various factors that contribute to the success and effectiveness of the device. Standards and certifications play a critical role in ensuring:

  1. Interoperability: For large-scale applications like law enforcement, national ID, and border control, it's crucial to have systems that can exchange fingerprint data efficiently. Understanding the relevant standards for data formats will help you determine if the scanner and its software are compatible with your needs.
  2. Image Quality: High-quality fingerprint images are vital for accurate matching and optimal system performance. Familiarizing yourself with image quality certifications will enable you to choose a fingerprint scanner that meets your specific requirements.
  3. Security, and Durability: Standards and certifications ensure that fingerprint scanners adhere to guidelines for quality, security, testing, and durability, among other important factors.

Fingerprint scanners are electronic devices designed to capture and store live-scan fingerprints for enrollment, verification, or identification purposes. Numerous standards and certifications govern their usage, including ISO/IEC and ANSI/NIST for fingerprint image and minutiae template interchange, promoting interoperability between systems. Additionally, certifications like CE, FCC, and RoHS address product safety and security, while ingress ratings focus on durability.

The primary objectives of these standards and certifications are to:

  • Enable access and interoperability of fingerprint data
  • Facilitate efficient electronic transmission of fingerprint data between biometric systems
  • Ensure overall fingerprint matching accuracy
  • Provide customers with confidence in their decision-making process when purchasing fingerprint scanners
  • Guarantee the safety, security, and durability of fingerprint scanners

Over the past 30 years, standards and certifications for fingerprint scanners have evolved on both national and international levels. These guidelines cover various aspects of fingerprint scanning, including data collection, submission, and storage. They also ensure product safety and security for different markets and countries.

Understanding biometric standards and certifications for fingerprint scanners is crucial when selecting the right device for your application. Not only do these guidelines assist customers in making informed decisions, but they also contribute to the development of robust, scalable, interoperable, and integrated systems for various applications.

In the biometric industry, critical standards and certifications for fingerprint scanners serve two primary purposes - facilitating efficient interchange of electronic fingerprint images between different systems and evaluating fingerprint image quality to ensure matching accuracy.

You'll often see terms like "ISO/IEC 19794-2", "ANSI/INCITS 378", "ANSI/INCITS 381", "FBI Appendix F and PIV certified", "FBI Mobile ID FAP 60 certified", and "FBI certified WSQ" listed on fingerprint scanner datasheets from various vendors worldwide. These standards and certifications demonstrate the high quality and reliability of their devices.

Let's examine these standards and certifications based on their purpose.

1) Interoperability Standards - Ensuring Consistent Fingerprint Data Formats

Achieving better interoperability for fingerprint data in the digital era is crucial. This need has led agencies like ANSI, NIST, FBI, and ISO to develop standards for fingerprint minutiae and image template data formats. Different vendors may have their proprietary algorithms for extracting and generating minutiae templates; hence, national and international standards for finger minutiae data interchange formats have been developed. These standards not only promote competition among fingerprint scanner vendors but also address users' primary concerns when deploying scanners in real-life applications.

Some widely adopted standards for finger minutiae and finger image data interchange formats include:

a. ISO/IEC 19794-2:2011 -

Information Technology — Biometric Data Interchange Formats — Part 2: Finger Minutiae Data

ISO/IEC 19794-2 is an international biometric data interchange format developed by the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee to enable interoperability and fingerprint data interchange between various biometric systems. This standard specifies concepts and data formats for representing fingerprints using the fundamental concept of minutiae. Guidelines and values for matching and decision parameters are provided. It defines:

  • Fundamental data elements for minutiae-based representation of a fingerprint
  • Three data formats for interchange and storage: a record-based format, and normal and compact formats for smart card use in match-on-card applications
  • Optional extended data formats for including additional data such as ridge counts and core and delta locations

b. ANSI INCITS 378 -

Finger Minutiae Data Interchange Format

ANSI INCITS 378 is a national biometric data interchange format developed by the American National Standards Institute and InterNational Committee. It specifies guidelines and data formats for creating biometric templates of fingerprint minutiae, enabling interoperability and fingerprint data interchange between different biometric systems. The specification of ANSI INCITS 378 provides values for:

  • Finger position codes
  • Finger impression-type code
  • Ridge counts
  • Core information (approximate center of a fingerprint image data)
  • Delta information (point of divergence of a ridge)

Fingerprint minutiae templates are commonly used in personal verification applications. However, large-scale applications requiring identification (1:N) need to store fingerprint data in image formats, such as:

c. ISO/IEC 19794-4:2011 -

Information Technology - Biometric Data Interchange Format - Part 4: Finger Image Data

ISO/IEC 19794-4 is an international biometric data interchange format developed by the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee to facilitate interoperability and fingerprint image data interchange between different biometric systems. This standard specifies the data elements, encoding, and compression techniques necessary for representing fingerprint images. The key aspects of this standard include:

  • Definition of fundamental data elements for the representation of fingerprint images
  • Requirements for the image quality and resolution
  • Compression techniques such as JPEG and WSQ (Wavelet Scalar Quantization) for efficient storage and transmission of fingerprint images
  • Image data format to accommodate grayscale images and the use of multiple fingerprint impressions per record

The ISO/IEC 19794-4:2011 standard ensures that fingerprint image data can be exchanged between various systems, enabling more accurate and efficient fingerprint identification and verification processes.

d. ANSI INCITS 381 -

Finger Image-Based Data Interchange Format

ANSI INCITS 381 is a national biometric data interchange format developed by the American National Standards Institute and InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards. It defines the guidelines and data formats for creating biometric templates of fingerprint images to enable interoperability and fingerprint data interchange between different biometric systems. The specification of ANSI INCITS 381 addresses the following aspects:

  • Fingerprint image capture, quality, and resolution requirements
  • Compression methods such as JPEG and WSQ (Wavelet Scalar Quantization) to optimize storage and transmission of fingerprint images
  • Image data format to support grayscale images and the inclusion of multiple fingerprint impressions per record
  • Metadata accompanying the fingerprint image, such as finger position, impression type, and capture method

By adhering to the ANSI INCITS 381 standard, fingerprint scanner vendors ensure that their devices generate image-based fingerprint data that is consistent and interoperable across various systems, contributing to more effective identification and verification processes.

Why are fingerprint format standards crucial for effective fingerprint recognition?

There are two main reasons why standard fingerprint formats are essential in fingerprint recognition:

  1. Enhanced Access and Interoperability

Standard fingerprint formats ensure smooth exchange and compatibility between different systems and organizations. They are necessary for various applications, including crime investigation, border control, and refugee registration. Interoperability is a key factor in ensuring successful fingerprint recognition.

Real-life examples:

  • When hiring bodyguards, their fingerprints must be submitted to law enforcement databases for background checks. To ensure a quick and accurate process, the submitted fingerprints must comply with standard data formats and be of high image quality.
  • Border Patrol agents need to submit collected fingerprint images to state databases for real-time identification during immigration checks. This process requires rapid turnaround and submission of fingerprint data that meets the required transmission specifications.

  1. Flexibility and Vendor Independence

Standard fingerprint formats enable matching between different fingerprint templates generated by various vendors' algorithms within the same database. This allows for easy switching between fingerprint scanners and algorithms from different vendors while maintaining compatibility and smooth operations.

Importance of vendor independence:

  • In large-scale projects, there may be a need to change fingerprint vendors due to budget reallocation, policy changes, or discontinuation of certain products. In such cases, having a standard format ensures a smooth transition.
  • When a local bank merges with a larger bank, there may be a need to switch to another fingerprint scanner vendor. If the current fingerprint scanner and its algorithm don't generate fingerprint templates in widely adopted ISO or ANSI formats, the transition will be complicated and time-consuming.

The development of appropriate standards for fingerprint data interchange is critical for ensuring interoperability and smooth functioning of fingerprint recognition systems. Before purchasing fingerprint scanners, verify if they and their associated algorithms can generate fingerprint formats compliant with international and US standards, such as ISO/IEC 19794 and ANSI INCITS. This will ensure a seamless, efficient, and successful implementation of your fingerprint recognition system.

2) Certifications for Storing Fingerprint Data - Efficient Image Compression and Comparison

In an era of rapidly growing fingerprint data volumes, efficient storage and transmission methods are indispensable for maintaining the optimal performance of fingerprint recognition systems. There are specific certifications in place that ensure the efficiency and integrity of these methods.

Two widely recognized certifications pertaining to the storage of fingerprint data are the FBI's Wavelet Scalar Quantization (WSQ) and JPEG 2000 certifications. These certifications confirm the effectiveness of compression methods that retain the quality of fingerprint images.


The FBI WSQ Fingerprint Image Compression Encoder/Decoder Certification is a program that verifies the compliance of implementations with the Wavelet Scalar Quantization (WSQ) standard. WSQ, an algorithm developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was specifically designed for the compression, storage, and transmission of 8-bit grayscale fingerprint images at 500 ppi resolution. This lossy compression technique provides a significant reduction in file size while maintaining sufficient quality for accurate fingerprint recognition. The WSQ certification ensures efficient access to FBI criminal justice information services and facilitates interoperability between agencies.

JPEG 2000:

The JPEG 2000 Fingerprint Image Compression Encoder/Decoder Certification is another crucial program that verifies the effectiveness of compression methods for storing fingerprint data. This certification ensures that these implementations are suitable for the efficient storage and transmission of fingerprint data, especially in the context of the FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) system.

The JPEG 2000 is a flexible image compression algorithm that offers both lossless and lossy compression options. It employs wavelet-based compression techniques, similar to WSQ, to provide high-quality image compression with minimal distortion. The JPEG 2000 certification confirms that the compression of fingerprint data preserves the required quality for accurate recognition, even at a higher resolution of 1000 ppi. This is particularly beneficial for the digital capture of latent prints.

Why Image Compression Matters?

Storing fingerprints as uncompressed raw images would consume a significant amount of storage space and slow down the transmission of data between systems. With Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS) needing to store billions of fingerprint images, efficient compression techniques are essential for maintaining system performance and reducing storage costs.

The benefits of using standardized fingerprint image compression methods include:

  1. Space-saving: Compressed fingerprint images require less storage space, allowing for more efficient utilization of available resources.
  2. Faster transmission: Smaller file sizes result in quicker transmission times between systems, which is especially important in time-sensitive applications such as law enforcement and border control.
  3. Maintained image quality: Standards like WSQ and JPEG 2000 ensure that fingerprint images are compressed without significant loss of quality, allowing for accurate recognition and matching.
  4. Interoperability: Adopting widely used compression standards promotes compatibility between different systems and organizations, facilitating seamless integration and data exchange.

Understanding and implementing appropriate fingerprint image compression standards and certifications, such as the FBI's WSQ and JPEG 2000, are vital for efficient storage and transmission of fingerprint data. They are not only vouch for the efficiency of the compression algorithms but also ensure their compliance with standards that guarantee the quality of fingerprint image storage and transmission.

3) Certifications for Accuracy - Ensuring High-Quality Fingerprint Images

While fingerprint data interchange formats facilitate smooth interaction between diverse systems and organizations, they don't have a direct impact on fingerprint matching accuracy. In applications that involve fingerprint recognition, both interoperability and matching accuracy are crucial, as they influence the overall system performance and determine the success of the application.

High-quality fingerprint images are essential for achieving improved matching performance. Consequently, various certifications, such as those from the FBI and UIDAI STQC, have been established to evaluate the quality of fingerprint images captured by different devices and ensure their compatibility with systems like the FBI's Next Generation Identification (NGI) System and India's Aadhaar biometric program.

FBI Certification:

FBI certification provides assurance to users of biometric collection systems that certified products comply with or exceed the FBI's minimum interoperability standards. This ensures that the images employed in the system are of high quality and can support all identification stages for both fingerprint experts and the NGI.

Two Key Standards:

  1. Appendix F: As a component of the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS), Appendix F enforces rigorous image quality conditions, focusing on human fingerprint comparison and facilitating extensive machine one-to-many matching processes. Devices that comply with Appendix F specifications are also considered to have met PIV specifications.
  2. PIV-071006: This supplementary standard is intended to support one-to-one fingerprint verification. Certification is available for devices designed for use in the FIPS 201 PIV program.

Types of Certified Devices:

A range of fingerprint printers, card scanners, and live scanners can be certified based on the relevant standards. In all cases, a certified unit is a configuration of specific hardware and driver/support software optimized for fingerprint use. These devices include:

  1. Fingerprint Card Print Systems: Software that generates 10-print cards of fingerprints with adequate image quality to facilitate fingerprint identification/matching. Standard laser writer printing software does not meet these requirements.
  2. Fingerprint Card Scanner: Certification is conducted with or without an automatic document feed (ADF). Output resolution must adhere to the strict limits of either 500 ppi or 1000 ppi, complying with the high image quality standards outlined by Appendix F.
  3. Live-Scan (Tenprint) Systems: These devices are capable of collecting all elements on a tenprint card, such as roll scans, plain thumb scans, and 4-finger flats.
  4. Identification Flats Systems: These devices can capture 4-finger and 2-thumb flat impressions within a 3.2 x 3.0-inch area. The larger minimum platen height allows for an upright presentation of the fingers for identification purposes. Identification Flats devices can also be used to collect tenprint flats, which must be a minimum of 2.0 inches high, but larger images are acceptable.
  5. PIV Single Finger: Devices capable of collecting a single finger flat impression, with a minimum size limitation.
  6. Mobile ID: Devices that can function in a mobile environment, capturing only flat impressions. The category is subdivided into several levels by fingerprint acquisition profile (FAP) number, based on device capture dimensions, the image quality specification applied, and the number of simultaneous fingers that can be captured.

The FBI's certified fingerprint scanners consider six factors to assess image quality:

  1. Geometric image accuracy
  2. Modulation transfer function (MTF)
  3. Signal-to-noise ratio
  4. Gray-scale range of image data
  5. Gray-scale linearity
  6. Output gray-level uniformity

FBI certifications play a vital role in ensuring the quality of fingerprint images and interoperability with large-scale identification systems. By implementing FBI certified fingerprint devices, organizations can improve matching accuracy, enhance system performance, and achieve greater success in their fingerprint recognition applications.

STQC Certification:

The Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC) is a certification provided by the Indian government, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). This certification guarantees that biometric devices (such as fingerprint scanners and iris scanners) used in India's unique identification system, known as Aadhaar, meet high standards of security, performance, and image quality. In turn, this ensures that biometric devices and the Aadhaar system can work together seamlessly to provide secure access to services throughout the country.

Main Objectives and Benefits of STQC Certification:

The primary goal of STQC certification is to instill confidence in users and organizations that the certified biometric devices are reliable, safe, secure, and meet the necessary requirements. The certification covers fingerprint image scanners and iris cameras for both enrollment and authentication devices. Key objectives and benefits of STQC certification include:

  1. Ensuring suppliers can provide biometric devices that meet the technical specifications set by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
  2. Verifying that suppliers have the resources and systems necessary to support device implementation and usage by enrollment agencies, including training, calibration, and maintenance of devices.
  3. Certifying that devices are designed, manufactured, and delivered according to UIDAI's technical requirements, with final test reports and release notes available on demand.
  4. Confirming that devices are produced in a facility with an established Quality Management System (QMS).
  5. Verifying that suppliers have a system to provide confidence in the distribution and maintenance of devices.

Registered Devices and Compliance Levels:

"Registered Devices" refer to devices that have been approved by the Aadhaar system for managing encryption keys. Aadhaar's authentication servers can distinguish and validate each registered device's encryption keys. Essentially, a device can only be registered with the Aadhaar system if it satisfies all the requirements of STQC certification.

These devices have unique identifiers that enable device authentication, traceability, analytics, and fraud management. There are two levels of compliance for registered devices based on their implementation:

  1. Level 0 Compliance: Devices achieve level 0 compliance when signing and encryption of biometric data occur within the software zone at the host OS level. In this case, private key management must be carefully addressed to ensure protection from user access or external applications within the OS.
  2. Level 1 Compliance: Devices need to have signing and encryption of biometric data within the Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) to comply with Level 1 standards. TEE is a separate area on the main processor of the biometric device, which is isolated from the system's main operating system (OS). Private key management must also be entirely within the TEE, and any storage outside the TEE must wrap the keys using TEE instance-specific AES 256-bit keys.

In short, the difference between Level 0 and Level 1 compliance lies in the level of security when it comes to encryption key management. The Level 0 approach is more vulnerable to user access and external applications within the OS, while the Level 1 approach provides better security by keeping encryption keys entirely inside the TEE.

As per UIDAI guidelines, it is mandatory to use registered devices for all Aadhaar-based applications. This ensures that every fingerprint scanner used for Aadhaar applications has a unique identifier registered with UIDAI, and every fingerprint scan is signed and encrypted by the device provider before being sent to the host application. This process prevents third-party applications from storing and using biometric data for authentication at a later time. By complying with STQC certification and RD service requirements, biometric device providers contribute to the protection of sensitive biometric data and enhance the overall security of the Aadhaar ecosystem.

In short, certifications such as those provided by the FBI and STQC play a crucial role in ensuring the quality of fingerprint images and the seamless integration of biometric devices with large-scale identification systems. By implementing certified fingerprint scanners, organizations can improve matching accuracy, enhance system performance, and achieve greater success in their fingerprint recognition applications.

4) Additional Considerations for Fingerprint Scanners

Aside from the primary standards and certifications ensuring fingerprint image quality and interoperability, there are other factors and certifications that play a role in the overall performance and security of fingerprint scanners. These include:

👉The Open Source Platform:

MOSIP (Modular Open Source Identity Platform):

MOSIP (Modular Open Source Identity Platform) is a groundbreaking open-source platform designed to support governments in developing secure and consistent digital identity programs. Inspired by India's Aadhaar system, MOSIP offers comprehensive modules to manage identity registration, data storage and management, identity authentication, and more, with an emphasis on user privacy and security.

MOSIP-Compliant Fingerprint Scanners:

Fingerprint scanners play a crucial role in digital identity systems, enabling governments and organizations to establish unique digital identities based on biometric data. MOSIP has developed a set of standards and specifications for digital identity devices, including fingerprint scanners, to ensure the reliability, security, and interoperability of these systems.

A fingerprint scanner that adheres to MOSIP's SBI (Secure Biometric Interface) standards is considered MOSIP-compliant. These standards aim to guarantee the security, reliability, and interoperability of biometric devices utilized in digital identity systems. To qualify as a MOSIP-compliant fingerprint scanner, the following key features must be supported:

  1. Data security standards, including encryption algorithms.
  2. Biometric image requirements, such as ISO-compliant fingerprint image formats.
  3. Interoperability with other MOSIP-compliant devices and digital identity systems.
  4. Performance requirements, including extraction and matching of biometric data.
  5. Usability and accessibility standards, in line with privacy laws.

MOSIP-compliant fingerprint scanners can capture and authenticate access using fingerprint data, ensuring that they meet MOSIP's strict requirements while fostering a secure and reliable digital identity ecosystem.

👉Testing Programs:

Minutiae Interoperability Exchange Test (MINEX) III:

MINEX III is a NIST-led testing program that evaluates the performance of minutiae-based fingerprint template generators and matchers. By participating in MINEX III, fingerprint scanner manufacturers can ensure their devices are compliant with the most recent biometric standards, further enhancing the performance and interoperability of their products.

Fingerprint Verification Competition (FVC):

FVC is an ongoing series of international competitions aimed at evaluating the performance of fingerprint recognition algorithms. Participating in the FVC allows developers to test and improve their algorithms, ensuring better accuracy and reliability of fingerprint scanners.


Ingress Protection (IP):

Ingress Protection ratings determine the level of protection a device has against dust, water, and other external elements. An IP rating is essential for devices used in harsh environments, outdoor settings, or high-traffic areas, where they may be exposed to various conditions. It is crucial to consider the IP rating when choosing a fingerprint scanner to ensure the device can withstand the environment it will be used in.

Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256:

AES 256 is a widely used encryption standard that provides a high level of security for data transmission and storage. Fingerprint scanners equipped with AES 256 encryption ensure that the captured biometric data remains secure and protected from potential breaches or unauthorized access.

Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) Certification:

WHQL certification is a Microsoft program that ensures the compatibility of hardware devices with the Windows operating system. A fingerprint scanner with WHQL certification has undergone rigorous testing to ensure its seamless integration with Windows-based systems, offering users a more reliable and stable experience.

When evaluating fingerprint scanners, it's essential to consider various factors beyond the primary standards and certifications. By addressing additional aspects such as ingress protection, WHQL certification, AES 256 encryption, FVC performance, MINEX III testing, and MOSIP compliance, developers and users of fingerprint scanners can ensure the devices' robustness, reliability, and security in different applications.


Well, folks, we've reached the end of our delightful journey through the maze of fingerprint scanner standards and certifications. We've seen how these essential guidelines, which cover everything from interoperability to data storage, image quality, and even some extra goodies like ingress protection and encryption, can make or break the success of biometric solutions.

So, when you're on the hunt for the perfect fingerprint scanner, remember to keep your eyes peeled for the standards and certifications we've discussed. After all, they're your ticket to seamless integration, top-notch performance, and rock-solid security. Who wouldn't want that in a fingerprint recognition system?

As the world of technology keeps spinning, you can bet your bottom dollar that these standards and certifications will continue to evolve and adapt to new challenges and demands. So stay in the loop, and you'll always be ready to make the smartest choices when it comes to implementing and maintaining a high-quality, secure fingerprint recognition system. And with that, we bid you adieu and happy scanning!


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