Michigan State University has licensed tattoo-matching technology to MorphoTrak, a company that works with law-enforcement officials in identifying people based on biometrics — or unique physical and behavioral characteristics, such as fingerprints and facial measurements, says the Detroit Free Press. The new technology analyzes not only tattoo designs, but also their colors and textures, to compute similarities. “With tattoos, there’s an incredible amount of detail,” said the company’s Eve Fillon. “It can help narrow your field of suspects.”
Until now, law enforcement was limited in identifying tattoo designs by one of 70 keywords, said Anil Jain, the MSU professor of computer technology and engineering who developed the technology. In Michigan, 2,017 of the 45,180 people in state prison had a tattoo described as a heart Tuesday; skulls adorned 1,965 of prisoners. Russ Marlan of the state corrections department estimated that as many as 90 percent of Michigan prisoners have at least one tattoo. If someone has a tattoo that matches one entered into the database, it gives law enforcement officials a starting point even if they don’t know the person’s identity. MorphoTrak is expected to begin using the technology in to-be-determined pilot cities by year’s end.