|Year : 2021 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 5-9
Infectious disease transmission through touch-enabled biometric system: A digital dilemma
Sudip Bhattacharya1, Md Mahbub Hossain2
1 Department of Community Medicine, HIMS, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India
2 Texas A and M University, Texas, USA
|Date of Submission||10-Jan-2021|
|Date of Acceptance||21-Jan-2021|
|Date of Web Publication||28-May-2021|
Department of Community Medicine, HIMS, Jolly Grant, Dehradun, Uttarakhand
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
We use biometrics to authenticate the identity of humans by their behavioral or physiological features. Due to the digital revolution in India, the biometric technology is penetrating its roots in the health care (in the primary, secondary, and tertiary care levels) and other industries at a rapid pace. As an example, “Aadhaar-enabled Biometric Devices” have already acquired a lot of appreciation, after the successful implementation of “Ayushman Bharat Yojana” in India. However, during the COVID-19, pandemic, many institutes banned biometric attendance of their employees, due to the fear of infection transmission. The current paper aimed to describe the potential of infection spread through touch-enabled biometric devices and discussed the control measures to limit the spread of infectious diseases. A literature search was done using “PubMed,” “Google Scholar,” and “Scopus” databases for the key terms “biometric,” “infectious diseases and biometrics,” “infection and touch enabled biometrics,” and/or “touch enabled sensors”. All the relevant articles were included to support the argument for this narrative review. Commonly biometric systems use two types of sensors one is contactless, and another system requires direct contact to authenticate human beings. To authenticate by the biometrics (touchable), the end user must make direct physical contact for some time. It may increase the possibility of contamination with contagious/infectious agents (by food and water) to its subsequent users. Later, this event raises the chances of inoculation of dangerous contagions into our airway, and this is one of the ways, how infectious disease transmission occurs. To prevent infectious disease transmission, a multimodal confirmation system having the option for added means of authentication, like a spoken codeword or token or traditional methods like written attendance can be deployed within the organizations/healthcare facilities/medical colleges. To conclude, this paper proposes the adoption of a multimodal approach to prevent transmission of infectious diseases through fingerprint scanners.
Keywords: Biometrics, COVID-19, emerging disease, pandemic, sensors
|How to cite this article:|
Bhattacharya S, Hossain MM. Infectious disease transmission through touch-enabled biometric system: A digital dilemma. J Surg Spec Rural Pract 2021;2:5-9
|How to cite this URL:|
Bhattacharya S, Hossain MM. Infectious disease transmission through touch-enabled biometric system: A digital dilemma. J Surg Spec Rural Pract [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 31];2:5-9. Available from: http://www.jssrp.org/text.asp?2021/2/1/5/317013
| Introduction|| |
Due to the digital revolution in India, the biometric technology is penetrating its roots in the health care (in the primary, secondary, and tertiary care levels) and other industries at a rapid pace. As an example, “Aadhaar-enabled Biometric Devices” have already acquired a lot of appreciation, after the successful implementation of “Ayushman Bharat Yojana” in India. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many authorities have issued a notice to stop the biometric fingerprint attendance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, globally.
In many sectors, we use fingerprint recognition system to authenticate the users and control access to the resources (computers) as well as important facilities like hospitals, medical colleges, and many more. Besides the authentication process, a biometric fingerprinting system is helpful in generating security data which are used for surveillance and monitoring of workers like duration of stay, entry, and exit in a particular facility. Modern day technologies are not without their harmful effects. Due to multiple unhygienic touches multiple times by multiple users during the authentication process, moisture of the finger, oils, or sweat can spoil the surface of the scanner and this way risk of transmission of infection/microorganism (virus, bacteria, and fungi) increases manifolds. Especially, it is important in the COVID-19 pandemic situation which is spread through droplets, infected hands, and surfaces.,
| Methods|| |
The current paper aimed to describe the chances of infection spread through fingerprint enabled biometric devices and discussed the control measures to limit the spread of infectious diseases, during COVID-19 as well as normal situations. A literature search was done using “PubMed,” “Google Scholar,” and “Scopus” databases for the key terms “biometric,” “infectious diseases and biometrics,” “infection and touch enabled biometrics,” and/or “touch enabled sensors”. All the relevant articles were included to support the argument for this narrative review.
| Results|| |
Fingerprint biometric systems are simple to handle; it is user friendly, and cheap that is why these are widely used in multiple settings for multiple purposes, as follows:
- It is used for keeping attendance of the employees in multiple settings like offices, hospitals, and many more
- It is helpful for secure access to the computers, mobile phones, and multiple e-gadgets,
- Due to the fourth industrial revolution, now it is also used in electronic automobile systems like finger enabled biometric doors which can restrict unauthorized access of the vehicles
- Fingerprint biometrics are used in the aviation sector, health-care facilities, sports ground, learning institutions, and supermarkets to regulate access of persons, making the environment secure
- Fingerprint-enabled biometrics are used to provide and limit the access of nationals' verification, demographic information, health information as well as benefits like providing money of the government schemes to the public such as AADHAR card verification in India,
- It is also embedded in the Automatic Teller Machine and Point of Sale for transparent financial transactions
- A biometric e-passport is used for immigration and verification at the airports
- The biometric fingerprint is also used in crime investigation using automated fingerprint identification systems.
As we have described earlier that physical contact is essential for most of the biometric scanners, especially for the fingerprint, enabled one. That is why it is necessary for detection and obtaining an electrical analysis of the fingerprint pattern, especially the structure of the fingerprints and its surfaces like ridges, pits, furrows, and valleys are scanned.
Direct contact on the scanner surface can increase the chances of either acquiring or depositing harmful contagions/infections which can give rise to the infections, possibly including the novel COVID-19.
As per a study conducted by Kramer and Assadian, infected surfaces (fingerprint enabled biometrics) can act as important sources for cross-spread of contagions with the capability for a rapid spread.
The transmission of the contagion also depends on the type of contagion, types of surface, and ability of the aerosol droplets to survive in that environment. This is particularly common in hospitals/clinic settings later, which can cause hospital-acquired infections or nosocomial infections. Other factors like sources of fingerprint scanner surface contamination (staph species from the oozing finger), rate of use, and site of the device (large number of people using a single machine), personal hygiene of the users, virulence of the microbe, and dose of infective microbes, immunity level of the individual, relative humidity, temperature, biofilm formation and many more, play an important role for cross-contamination through biometric sensors.
Kramer and Assadian showed that the risks of this cross-contamination of hands were higher (100%) with Escherichia coli, Salmonella species, and Staphylococcus aureus when persons used their single hand.
Ultimately, in a long run, this type of biometric machine becomes secondary reservoirs of infection (like Typhoid Mary), unless regular preventive surface disinfection is performed. Later, it can cross-contaminate common objects like food or water through contaminated hands, or objects and diseases can spread to the public very easily.
As an example, studies indicate that the novel coronavirus can survive hours in aerosols and days on the surfaces depending on the ecological temperature (low temperature increases the persistence of COVID-19), humidity, and dose of the inoculum.
Due to multiple factors being involved in disease transmission through fingerprint scanners, long-lasting pathogens found in body secretions may affect us while using fingerprint enabled biometrics. In [Table 1], a list of common body secretions and commonly linked microbes which can cause disease through biometric attendance has been enumerated.
List of common body secretions and commonly linked microbes which can cause disease through biometric attendance [Table 1].
| Discussion|| |
Practicing Universal precautions is still the gold standard to control the infectious disease transmission through fingerprint devices. We should adopt this in all facilities, along with health-care facility.
Special measures (avoiding the installation of biometric devices) can be adopted in high touch areas where the load of the infectious patients is high, such as hospital settings, microbiology, and biomedical laboratories. We should ensure about the regular decontamination with recommended solutions/ultraviolet machines of the fingerprint systems without breaching the integrity (misuse/unethical use like “using fake finger”) and biometric functionality.
A foot-operated sanitizer (alcohol rub) can be installed near each fingerprint enabled biometric machine and people are instructed to sanitize their hands each time before and after using the biometric machine.
Other than implementing SOPs, health education regarding the importance of hand hygiene, social distancing, wearing face masks/face shields (if some is suffering from flu), using alcohol-based hand rubs (where handwashing facility is unavailable), personal protective equipment, nontouch greeting gesture like “Salam-Namaste”/”Bow down” can be practiced in workplaces to prevent the spread of infections in workplaces as well as in the community.,,
Adjustment of the scanner sensitivity to reduce the contact time of our fingers is another option to reduce the likelihood of contagion/germ/infectious agent transmission. The ease of extracting a fingerprint copy or pattern from a user depends on the sensitivity of a biometric scanner. The sensitivity level should be balanced one because it is observed that an extremely sensitive scanner tends to deny user authentication process, while a less sensitive scanner can be too biased. That is why we must adjust the sensitivity level of the fingerprint scanner to such a level so that minimum contact time can be achieved without compromising the authentication function.
A multimodal confirmation system having the option for added means of authentication, like a spoken codeword or token or traditional methods like written attendance can be deployed within the organizations/healthcare facilities/medical colleges. This multimodal system is not only beneficial to avoid overreliance on single-modal confirmation but also same can be relaxed in humanitarian crisis conditions such as the COVID-19 pandemic/post COVID era when the risk of transmission of contagious diseases is extremely high.,
By having multifactor authentication process, we can prepare an alternative system in which proactively switching of authentication modes (when temporary disabling biometric sign in is required) can take place in agreement with the demands of the working situation.
The contactless biometric technologies such as facial recognition scan, iris scan, gait recognition, vascular biometrics like finger vein and palm vein recognition, are emerging as a promising option and continuous research is going on for contactless identification/authentication technologies as it has multiple benefits including restraining the spread of surface infectious. Day by day research in this field is advancing, and we expect that some more advanced prototype technologies (artificial intelligence-enabled thermal sensing machines/voice recognition/gait recognition) may soon be commercially accessible; therefore, touch-enabled biometrics will optimistically replace by the contactless systems which will address the hygiene issues by eliminating contamination from frequent direct touching of the surfaces.
Interestingly, different institutions are developing multiple facial recognition technologies that may identify people wearing masks and using deep learning models these systems can accurately identify people which eliminates the necessity of using touch-based biometric systems. For example, US-based supplier FLIR Systems has introduced a new FLIR A400/A700 fixed camera that uses thermal smart sensors and multi-image streaming cameras for identifying elevated skin temperatures. It may mitigate COVID-19 by monitoring equipment, production lines, and other critical infrastructure. Another system introduced by BioSec has a third-party supplied temperature detection that uses palm vein recognition to control access to infrastructures and facilities. It can also be configured to facilitate contactless authentication. Moreover, Toronto-based BioConnect has launched facial recognition access control systems for reducing the risk of infections. Furthermore, a Swiss firm named TECH5 has launched a rapid deployment kit with touchless face and fingerprint capture solutions, which may help quarantine management and to bring people back into work in a safe and controlled manner. The growing years of different digital technologies 4 modern biometric products indicate the increasing adoption of those digital solutions for contactless identification of individuals which may help organizations and communities to ensure secure access and individual safety amid this pandemic.
However, the development and use of multifactor authentication systems may require added layers of security that may ensure privacy and foster trust among the users and organizations. Such applications must be designed and implemented for not only improving infectious disease concerns but also enhancing healthier workplaces and communities held in different contexts. It is essential to recognize health IT policies and programs that are already in place and explore how the adoption of new generation biometric products can be feasible in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, financial issues should be evaluated considering the long-term economic consequences of adopting such technologies at local and national levels. Health-care providers may participate in meaningful conversations with employers and businesses to facilitate how those places can be healthier using contact list biometric technologies and other evolving products that may bring the best available technology in day-to-day practice.
In addition, future research efforts could try to find ways so that automatic sanitization is embedded into the model of new fingerprint detection systems without compromising the sensitivity of the scanner devices. Other than the embedded automatic sanitizer devices within the scanners, there is a limited body of evidence is present about the virulent pathogens (characteristics, their inoculums load, survival strategy, survival time among different surfaces including shared surfaces like cart of a shopping mall) which can be spread through fingerprint scanners. Undoubtedly it is a window of opportunity for us to do extensive research on this highly demanding topic, globally.
| Conclusion|| |
To conclude, this paper proposes the adoption of a multimodal approach to prevent transmission of infectious diseases through fingerprint scanners We assume that not only in the present COVID-19 scenario, in the future, also, emerging and re-emerging disease outbreaks, will take place and we have to live in a NEW NORMAL life with maintaining proper hygienic measures to prevent disease transmission through fingerprint scanners. While we have won battles through science, but we must keep in our mind that the war on communicable disease is still on!
The authors would like to thank all the authors of those books, articles, and journals that were referred in preparing this manuscript.
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
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