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New Fingerprint Technology for Africans Designed by 9 Students of Makerere University in Uganda

A group of nine students of Makerere University’s School of Computing and Informatics Technology have worked out a way to start cars with fingerprints, rather than car keys.

These ICT from Makerere students want to make stealing your car a little harder with a fingerprint ignition, writes Jackie Nalubwama

They are: Ernest Ojakol, Michael Mawejje, Mark Musinguzi, Sheila Ankunda, Dominic Walusimbi, Nicholas Kayola, Anxious Ainebyona and Joseph Kitamirike. The ninth student is David Tusubira from the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology.


How it works

The innovation is named Kuwanza Gari (Swahili for “to start the car”).

On installation, the owner has to place his or her print in the system, and it is then stored on the fingerprints module. The module has two buttons: one for adding prints and the other for erasing prints, in case the owner is selling the car or perhaps wants to remove one of the authorised prints.

“If a guy breaks up with his girlfriend, he can erase her print from the system,” Ojakol jokes, adding: “The owner has to verify that he or she is adding or resetting prints, but the system can take up to five fingerprints, meaning that the owner can choose four other people who can drive the car.”

Musinguzi says the fingerprint ignition system also has an LCD (liquid crystal display) screen that gives you feedback of the options: deleting, adding, starting the car or errors if a fingerprints is not in the system.

Ainebyona says the device has a GSM (Global System for Mobile) module that sends a message to the owner’s mobile phone  (as programmed) if the wrong person tries to start the car.

Tusubira says though the fingerprint ignition is but a prototype, they hope to make and sell them to car companies and organisations that have fleets of cars.

There are plans to introduce the additional protection of fingerprint entry (when opening the car).

“We want to implement an alternative biometric system for ignition because some people lose their prints.”

For now, the system is powered by a laptop, which does not provide enough power, but the team plans to a create a connection to the car battery’s power.

The team needs $500 to make one, money which they hope they can raise by themselves.

Dr. Julianne Sansa-Otim, the acting head of the Department of Networks at the School of Computing and Informatics Technology, says the innovation was part of the team’s final project.

The project is a requirement for the completion of the Software Engineering programme. All students are supposed to investigate a problem and solve it using technology. The team will graduate in January 2016.

The working bits which make up the students’ prototype for the car ignition that uses finger print
The working bits which make up the students’ prototype for the car ignition that uses finger print

Patents and funding
Dr Sansa-Otim explains that the university will help the students to acquire intellectual property rights through the intellectual property unit.

The university can also help to recommend the students to funders who can take their proposals forward.

“Previously, we had a software incubation centre that had funding and would even give students business mentorship.

“We will have the centre running again next year. It was a donor-funded project (by Ford Foundation) that ended,” she says.

One of the students displays the multi-meter used in the system they created
One of the students displays the multi-meter used in the system they created

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