A combination of vein patterns, skin creases, scars, tattoos and pigmentation are used as key biometrics used to identify an individual.
These techniques have previously been used successfully in a court of law to identify child abusers from images of their hands.
The project will combine ‘hard biometrics’, such as fingerprints with ‘soft biometrics’ to obtain a comprehensive assessment of the person’s true identity.
Professor Dame Sue Black, of Lancaster University, has pioneered the research.
She said: ‘The hand retains and displays many anatomical differences due to our genetics, development, environment or even accidents so each person’s hands are different.
‘Now for the first time, researchers will analyse all the factors that make a hand truly unique so we can understand and use them reliably as evidence to identify
The technology is a first of its kind and has never been attempted before, but anatomists, anthropologists, geneticists, bioinformaticians, image analysts and computer scientists are working together to create the system.
The researchers claim it opens up the opportunity to develop a variety of new biometric capabilities.
It would potentially have uses in security access, border control and assisting in the investigation of serious and organised crime on a global level.
More than 5,000 citizen scientists are now being recruited to create an open-source dataset for the programme.
The initiative has received €2.5million (£2.2million) in funding for the five year project which is being done by Lancaster University and the University of Dundee.
It is hoped the additional financing will enable the researchers to obtain more accurate imaging and identification in difficult lighting and positions.
Professor Dame Black said: ‘A significant step change is required in the science to both reliably and repeatedly extract and compare anatomical information from large numbers of images especially when the hand is not in a standard position or when either the resolution or lighting in the image is not ideal.’
HOW DOES MOBILE FINGERPRINT SCANNING WORK?
Police in the UK are trialing mobile fingerprint scanning to catch criminals.
The system allows police to identify a potential suspect in under a minute at the scene of an incident, according to officers testing the technology.
It involves a small device which connects to smartphones already used by frontline officers.
It then uses the new Biometric Services Gateway to search records held on both police and immigration databases.
The speed of the process meant people could sometimes be dealt with on the street without having to be taken to a police station.
An armed response unit using the device – which costs under £300 ($415) – took 10 minutes to identify a driver and issue a summons – a process which previously would have detained the team for four hours.