Prize Challenges

Nail to Nail (N2N) Fingerprint Challenge

Can you build the best autonomous nail to nail fingerprint capture device? The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), announced the launch of the Nail to Nail (N2N) Fingerprint Grand Challenge. The challenge aims to improve live and forensic biometric fingerprint recognition by improving biometric fingerprint collection and recognition systems by eliminating plain fingerprint captures.

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Who We Are: IARPA focuses on high-risk, high-payoff research. The Nail to Nail (N2N) Fingerprint Challenge will improve live and forensic biometric fingerprint recognition by improving N2N fingerprint enrollment capture technology and the elimination of a human operator to roll the fingerprints.

What We’re Doing: The goal of the N2N Fingerprint Challenge is to improve live and forensic biometric fingerprint recognition by improving N2N fingerprint enrollment capture technology and the elimination of a human operator to roll the fingerprints. N2N fingerprint, sometimes referred to as ‘rolled’, captures the entire fingerprint from one edge of the fingerprint nail bed to the other. The existing N2N enrollment standard utilizes a skilled operator who holds and physically ‘rolls’ the subjects fingerprints over a surface in order to capture the sides and bottom of the fingerprint. The human operator requires skill/training to hold and roll the finger or else there will be a decrease in print quality which affects the ability to identify latent or live fingerprints. Alternately, ‘slap’ fingerprint capture utilizes a single press of the fingerprint against a sensing device capturing only whatever is immediately touching the fingerprint sensor commonly referred to as the bottom of the print. Slap fingerprints provide significantly less surface area of the actual fingerprint which results in decreased matching performance for live and latent fingerprint recognition.

The key objectives of this prize challenge is to produce an automated capture technology that can eliminate a human operator physically interacting with the subject (such as rolling their prints) for N2N capture. Additionally, the automated capture technology must collect fingerprint data that performs as good as or better than the traditional rolled biometric gold standard. A human may be present and provide basic verbal instructions, but there should be no physical contact between the human collector and the fingerprint collection subject.

The challenge will bring prize participants to the same physical location in the DC metro area. Volunteer subjects’ N2N fingerprints will be captured on every participant’s technology, along with the government capturing ground truth data for comparison. It is anticipated that the ground truth captured will include traditional operator conducted ‘rolled’ fingerprint technology along with latent fingerprints. By using the same volunteer subjects for each sensor, we can ensure that a fair and direct evaluation of technology performance can be conducted to determine who wins the different categories of the challenge.

Why We’re Doing This: While technologically inferior to N2N, slap fingerprints are still commonly used due to a quicker capture time, lower collection costs, and lack of a required skilled human operator. Further, the role of a dedicated skilled collector/operator of N2N prints is increasingly being eliminated and replaced with generic security personnel rolling fingerprints as one of several duties, decreasing the recognition performance of some enrolled N2N fingerprints. As a result, fingerprint recognition performance for much of the data currently captured performs below what we know to be technically possible with a skilled operator performing the collection.

Where and When We’re Doing This: Registration to join the challenge will take place on You can register for a free account and find the registration form to include information about your team & idea. Registration closes on March 17, 2017.

When does registration and feasibility review begin? February 6, 2017

Where to learn about the challenge, including rules, criteria, and eligibility requirements:
Where do makers register?
When does the State 1 registration and feasibility review end? March 17, 2017
What is the duration of Stage 2 device construction? March - July 2017
When is the Stage 3 Live Test? September 2017
When will winners be announced? Fall 2017

The N2N Challenge is intended for prize participants who are eligible to compete for the challenge prizes. Other Government Agencies, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), University Affiliated Research Centers (UARCs), or any other similar organizations that have a special relationship with the Government, that gives them access to privileged or proprietary information, or access to Government equipment or real property, will not be eligible to participate in the prize challenge.

Read the full rules and challenge eligibility document for the N2N challenge by downloading this document:

Why Participate: The top builders who complete Stage 3 will be eligible to win cash prizes from a total prize purse of $295K. Prizes will be distributed for the following criteria:

Prize Amount
Grand Prize: Best Usable Matching System $100,000
Gallery Accuracy Prize $25,000
Latent Accuracy Prize $25,000
Speed Prize $25,000
Print Provider Prize (x12) $8,000
Master Builder Prize (x12) $2,000

The challenge grand prize will be for the highest enrollment to latent biometric recognition system that performs as good as or better than the traditional human operator N2N enrollment system.

In addition to the financial incentives for a winning prize participant, participants of the future N2N Challenge may request to keep the data they collect and obtain a copy of the governments corollary ground truth N2N and latent fingerprint data.

For more information on prizes, please visit the N2N Challenge Microsite: