It was like a scene out a sci-fi fliek.
And it was made possible by a company called Bytes Systems Integration, which merges software and hardware.
When the Athlone woman’s fingerprints are screened at government institutions, they appear ghostly or non-existent.
The 38-year-old’s unique story was first told in the Daily Voice in May when she battled to get a smart card ID from Home Affairs because she has no fingerprints.
After the story was published, Home Affairs quickly solved the problem and bypassed the system to issue her with a new smart card.
It was after staff at Bytes Systems Integration read Sandra’s story in the Daily Voice that they were keen to test their technology, which uses multi-spectral imaging (MSI), which reads the inner skin.
Sandra was only two weeks old when doctors diagnosed her with Epidermolysis bullosa dystrophica – a rare skin disease which leaves the skin fragile and blistering easily.
In severe cases, like Sandra’s, the patient has no epidermis, resulting in non-existent fingerprints and baldness.
Kids with this disease are commonly referred to as “Butterfly children” because their skin is delicate like that of a butterfly.
The Daily Voice joined Sandra at the company’s Cape Town headquarters where we met Andre Engelbrecht, who is the software developer in the department of identities.
Here Andre placed Sandra’s fingers on a fingerprint machine where multi-spectral imaging is done.
Etienne Basson, in Project Management Identity Solutions at the company, explains the process: “Multi-spectral imaging is capable of capturing the inner fingerprint, which resides below the surface of the skin.
“This works well in cases where the fingerprint found at the epidermis (outer skin) layer is worn off due to wear and tear and a host of other factors which cause fingerprint readers to be unreliable.
“Sandra agreed to participate in the tests in the hope of a positive result and the result proved she does, in fact, have fingerprints.”
Sandra joked, saying this means she’s no longer the ideal candidate for a perfect crime like a murder or robbery: “Wow, I am human, no longer a ghost, so now I can’t commit the perfect crime.
“Are these all my 10 fingerprints?” she asks, smiling at the computer.
“So I am not an alien.”
Tiny circles are evident on the screen, accompanied by red dots which pick up the points that are unique to Sandra’s prints.
An elated Sandra has forwarded the images of her fingerprints to her mother.
The company hopes the technology will be used to assist government in future.