Toby Norman

Simprints Technology
United Kingdom

Open source software and biometric hardware for fingerprint identification.


Focus: Technology

Geographic Area of Impact: Global

Model: Hybrid Non-Profit

Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 56,000 (2016)

Annual Budget: USD $486,000 (2016)

Percentage Earned Revenue: 45% (2016)

The Social Problem

The World Bank estimates that 1.5 billion people worldwide do not officially exist, lacking any type of formal identification. Lack of official identification documents such as national ID cards or birth certificates obstructs people’s access to financial, health, public services—costing lives, wasting resources, and preventing service delivery organizations from reaching millions of beneficiaries. Existing off-the shelf biometric solutions are tailored to Western contexts and are unsuitable for the frontlines of international development work and the damaged fingerprint profiles common across the developing world.

Innovation and Activities

Recognising the significant gap in current biometric technology, Simprints has developed an affordable, secure, rugged, and opensource fingerprint system that works in the world’s toughest settings. While biometrics is commonly used and is not in and of itself innovative, Simprints’ hardware and software innovations have created a technology that is four times cheaper and 228% more accurate in low-income contexts than existing biometric tools.


Through a strategic partnership with ARM, the world’s leading microchip company, Simprints has been able to achieve significant cost savings and mobility improvements. Their technology has been developed over hundreds of hours of testing together with frontline workers to be built-for-purpose and intuitive to use. In terms of software, the Simprints algorithms—unlike most biometric software—have been developed to be highly accurate with fingerprints in the developing world, particularly those that are worn, scarred, or burned. Simprints has collected over 135,000 fingerprint images from Zambia, Benin, Nepal, and Bangladesh, in the largest academic study of fingerprints globally conducted with the University of Cambridge and ARM. This enormous data set enabled Simprints to create a world-class algorithm. Simprints solution is the first-ever biometric hardware and software system designed for—and with—frontline workers in developing countries. Simprints is used across health, education, and finance.

Simprints clients include leading NGOs and Schwab Foundation community members such as BRAC in Bangladesh and Possible Health in Nepal that are charged fees for Simprints services, which generates revenue equivalent to 45% of their overall budget. By the end of 2018, Simprints earned revenue streams will grow to 80% of their overall budget.

The Entrepreneur

Toby Norman is passionate about bringing cutting-edge technology to solve challenges in global health and international development. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and BA from Harvard University. Toby brings ten years of experience with international field projects, operations management, and non-profit work in collaboration with Harvard. Toby has been recognised as a Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur and TechCrunch: Best Tech.