In what may be a first of its kind attempt, Michigan police are attempting to use a 3D model of a fingerprint to unlock a murder victim’s iPhone in order to obtain clues that may help them solve the case.
Fusion reports that the investigation is still ongoing, therefore details remain murky, but essentially instead of requesting that the phone manufacturer unlocks the murder victim’s handset, officers have asked computer scientists at Michigan State University to create a 3D printed replica of the victim’s fingers so they can do it themselves.
The report indicates the victim’s body was too decomposed to allow a direct finger to Home button connection. (And may I say, EEEEEWWWWW! – Ed.) However, the police already had a scan of the victim’s hand when he was arrested in connection with a previous case.
Now comes the part where this still might not work, for the simple reason that Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint reader is capacitive, meaning it requires human skin to make contact before it can read the fingerprint. The engineers hope they have a workaround for this, as they are coating the 3D printed fingers in a thin layer of metallic particles that should enable the scanner to read them.
We don’t know at this time if this gambit will pay off, as the printed fingers haven’t yet been turned over to the police. Plus, they could run up against another hurdle, as Apple handsets require a passcode even with a fingerprint, if the fingerprint unlock hasn’t been used within eight hours, and the code hasn’t been manually entered in six days.
If the process does prove successful, it could open a new avenue to government officials for cases where they have possession of a suspect’s iPhone or other fingerprint-protected device, and the suspect remains at large.