When Apple introduced its fingerprint sensing Touch ID technology for the iPhone in 2013, it hailed the innovation as a boon for consumer security. In fact, fingerprints are used to prevent car theft and financial fraud as well. After all, what security can be better than identifying a person by fingerprints? The answer can be found in one brand-new technology that renders fingerprints almost useless as a method of identification.
Industrial design student Mian Wei, a third-year student at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), created Identity, a wearable finger prosthetic that can be used on fingerprint readers without revealing the user’s actual fingers or thumb. Wei debuted his small, disposable finger prosthetic in May at a year-end RISD student exhibition. The Identity pad is made from a conductive silicone-based material, containing fibers that form an impression that will be accepted as a fingerprint on any consumer-grade fingerprint sensor.
An iPhone is only the most common example. Users simply wrap the slightly sticky material around their finger and touch it to a smartphone’s sensor to enroll a false fingerprint. To change prints, you can simply replace the prosthetic and repeat the process with the new one.
Wei is promoting the technology as a way to INCREASE security by hiding a user’s real fingerprints, instead substituting fake fingerprints to be used in high-security access to cell phones, automobiles, bank vaults and more. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to think of other uses that may result in the reverse: reducing finderprints to a meaningless tool.
Mian Wei’s technology exists only in one hand-made prototype right now. However, he says he’s talking to a design company about mass production.