Most adults have some form of identity protection, but that’s not the case for newborns. Hospitals have often captured infant footprints with ink and paper to identify children in case of abduction, natural disaster, or other high-risk situations. This system was time-consuming and not always effective, but it was the only option available. Until now.
CertaScan Technologies developed a scanning device that takes a high-resolution digital image of the newborn’s footprint. This allows hospitals or authorities to more precisely identify each newborn infant, and it could change the way the industry operates moving forward.
“Most hospitals are inking babies’ feet or using specialty paper to take footprints,” David Yarnell, CertaScan Technologies’ CEO tells Parentology. “But studies show that those methods can’t be used for precise identification — they essentially only serve as a keepsake for parents. More than 75% of hospitals are taking footprints, but they can’t provide precise identification in case of an emergency.”
The CertaScan footprint technology is much easier and faster for nurses to use than the traditional ink-and-paper method. The system takes about 3 minutes to scan a newborn’s footprint, and requires no extra materials or mess.
“It’s affordable, too,” Yarnell says. “There’s no up-front cost. The hospital pays a fee per use, but when you take into account the time and ink saved, CertaScan technology is much more efficient.”
How the CertaScan Footprint Works
The device’s scanner plane is sized for an infant’s foot. The system takes a scan, and a photo of the baby’s face. “This helps hospitals meet the NCMEC guidelines,” says Yarnell, referring to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Those forms of data can help match missing children to their families in case of an emergency.
CertaScan also records the mother’s fingerprints so she can be matched with her baby. “We don’t collect personal information like the baby’s name, though. Our database is anonymous,” Yarnell states.
There is still a keepsake option available. Parents receive a certificate with their baby’s footprint, and an online link to the image. This allows parents to upload it to CVS, Walgreens, or Shutterfly and place the footprint on mugs, t-shirts, coffee mugs — and even as tattoos.
“You’d be surprised how many parents do that these days,” Yarnell says.
When babies are born, their hands are clenched — opening up all the way for a fingerprint scan could hurt them. There’s also just not enough information on such small fingers.
“Feet, even the day after birth, are big enough for accurate identification,” Yarnell explains. “Everyone has a unique ridge pattern on their feet, which expands as they get older. CertaScan has been proven to identify young children, but we haven’t been around long enough to ensure identification for an entire lifetime.”
CertaScan was founded by current President & Chief Operating Officer Jim McKenna. He worked on age progression software with the NCMEC and was starting to look into what else could be done to safeguard newborns in the United States. He soon realized that identification technology had developed enough that it could be implemented in hospitals.
“Now, every installation is a step toward CertaScan’s goal: to ensure precise identification for every newborn in the country,” Yarnell says. “Over the last 4 years, CertaScan has been implemented in 105 US hospitals, and we expect that number to grow. We install a new system now about once a week.”
Since installing the first CertaScan equipment 4 years ago in an Alabama hospital, the company has expanded to 33 different US states. California currently has the most installations, at 14.
Now, when a missing child is found, the local police department will notify the NCMEC, who will contact CertaScan. The child’s footprint, taken at the police department or nearby hospital, will be compared with the CertaScan database for a match. And with more than 260,000 individual infants already in the CertaScan system, it’s much more likely that missing children will be properly identified and returned to their families.
“Our primary goal is the precise identification of babies and young children in the event of an abduction, natural disaster, evacuation, or even a switch-up in the hospital,” Yarnell states. “It’s good for mom and for babies. We’re here to help.”