You’ve seen technology similar to it on iPhones and your favorite crime shows, but now fingerprint-reading capability is available for your Android-powered mobile device.

Diamond Fortress Technologies announces fingerprint biometrics app for Android users

The user lines up their finger with the ellipse and snaps the photo. (Credit: DFT)

Diamond Fortress Technologies announced Tuesday their “ICE Unlock” fingerprint biometrics application – the “only app that unlocks Android devices with a fingerprint” – is now available to users for free.

As long as your device has a rear-facing camera, ICE can use your fingerprint to secure your phone, rather than relying on a series of unlock codes.

The Blaze spoke exclusively with Chace Hatcher, CEO, Diamond Fortress Technologies, and asked the tough questions about securing personal information with biometric software. Hatcher explained the ICE Unlock system actually “templatizes” the fingerprint photo, and then completely discards the image.

“No third party application will ever be able to steal your fingerprint image, because it isn’t stored. The image is processed into a fingerprint-matching algorithm using the unique ridging and bifurcation on your finger,” Hatcher said. The software builds a map of the ridge widths and directions of lines on your finger, then uses that information to build a unique identifier  that stored in the secure layer of your phone.

Diamond Fortress Technologies announces fingerprint biometrics app for Android users

Users place their fingers a few inches from their camera lens, and tap the screen to capture the image. then ICE Unlock processes the information and deletes the image.(Credit: DFT)

Once that identifier is registered in your phone’s app, when the user takes a picture of their finger to unlock the phone the software scans the image, and if the data points meet the “minimum threshold” for matching then the system will unlock.

Diamond Fortress

Hatcher realizes some people will be nervous or skeptical about the technology.

“There’s not a buzzword that puts people at ease, but what we want to do is fully explain what is actually going on with the process, so people can understand how it really secures their information,” he said.

Currently the live consumer facing application – ICE Unlock – is only available on Android devices, but the company has created an iOS version of their underlying Onyx software, and hopes to break into the Apple market soon.

“There is no other ubiquitous fingerprint biometric solution that can be used on mobile devices right now,” Andy Hayes, Diamond Fortress president, said.

The company implemented a soft launch in December and got feedback from nearly 4,000 people in 125 countries. Hatcher said the application got good ratings, but candidly admits every application can be better.

Diamond Fortress Technologies announces fingerprint biometrics app for Android users

Apple architecture doesn’t currently allow for third party applications, but Diamond Fortress hopes to break into the market with their Onyx software and ICE Lock application soon. (Credit: DFT)

“Right now the user has to tap the screen to capture the image; we are teaching Onyx right now how to recognize fingers so people don’t have to tap it and then it will perform the image processing faster and more fluidly,” he said.

According to Hatcher, the Apple iPhone 5S biometric sensor isn’t as accurate as ICE Unlock – capturing roughly 20 percent of the biometric data that their system processes.

“We are getting more data to match, ultimately reaching a higher level of accuracy,” he said.

Diamond Fortress Technologies is also officially releasing their software development kit today for people who want to use biometric fingerprint processing in their future applications. DFT hopes using Onyx will be a “gold standard” for users to identify which applications are secure and safe to use.

One catch Hatcher did admit – right now the system can’t necessarily differentiate between a real finger or a picture of a finger.

“Presently no – the system can’t tell the difference. Theoretically if you have a high enough resolution photo the system will read it as a fingerprint, but these are the improvements we want to make in the future.”

Diamond Fortress Technologies is based in Birmingham, Al.

“We are good ol’ southern boys,” said Hatcher. The CEO says the company will make ICE Unlock available to users for free for now, and the software development kit for application builders will be on sale for $995, the DFT Web site.

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.