The Failure of Forensic Fingerprints

On May 6, 2004, the FBI arrested Oregon lawyer Brandon Mayfield. A partial print found on a bag of detonators had conclusively linked him to the March 2004 Spanish terrorist bombings. Four separate fingerprint examiners positively identified the latent print as belonging to him.

All four examiners were wrong. In fact, three weeks before Mayfield was arrested Spanish officials had informed the FBI that they had matched the partial print to an Algerian man named Daoud Ouhnane. Still, the FBI believed their own experts and arrested Mayfield. Eventually, Mayfied sued for wrongful arrest and imprisonment, as well as civil rights violations, and won $2 million.

Clearly this was a freak occurrence that couldn’t possibly ever have happened again. Except it did. In connection with a 1994 murder, examiners had positively matched Beniah Dandridge’s fingerprints to ones found at the crime scene. In 2015 new examinations disputed the identification, and Dandridge was cleared of charges. He was released in 2015 after serving 20 years of a life sentence.

Although there is no empirical scientific proof of a fingerprint’s uniqueness to a given individual, no one really doubts this is true. The real problem is latent prints, i.e. those prints found on a crime scene, which are often smudged and partial.

The very first person who doubted the usefulness of latent fingerprints was the very first person in modern times who proposed using fingerprints to solve crimes, i.e. Henry Faulds, a Scottish doctor. He wrote:

“The least smudginess in the printing of them might easily veil important divergences … with appalling results…. (police were) “apt to misunderstand or overstrain, in their natural eagerness to secure convictions.”

Despite a century plus of use by the courts, Henry Faulds objections remain surprisingly sound. No empirical or established standards exist for matching latent prints.

Nor are challenges to the legality and scientific basis of fingerprints limited to desperate defense attorneys. In 2007, a judge in Maryland judge ruled fingerprint evidence in a death penalty case was inadmissible, because it was “a subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports to be infallible.”  In 2002, Judge Louis Pollack ruled that fingerprint identification was not a legitimate form of scientific evidence. He later reversed himself. Since 1999, nearly 40 judges have considered whether fingerprint evidence meets federal or state standards for the admissibility. All have ruled in favor of the status quo, but many think that the very existence of so many challenges is worrisome. Even the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has raised doubts and has called for vigorous scientific investigations.

In fact the NAS has conducted one study about the accuracy of latent fingerprint matching.  Excerpts from their conclusions:

“False positive errors (erroneous individualizations) were made at the rate of 0.1% and never by two examiners on the same comparison.

“The majority of examiners (85%) committed at least one false negative error, with individual examiner error rates varying substantially,

“This lack of consensus for comparison decisions has a potential impact on verification: Two examiners will sometimes reach different conclusions on a comparison.”

A 0.1% false positive error (claiming a match that does not exist) may not sound like much. However, consider thousands of fingerprints are processed every year.  If the above false positive rate is correct, it is safe to assume that at least some individuals will be erroneously matched.

It is extremely unlikely that the courts will discard over one hundred years of legal precedent and throw out fingerprinting altogether. However, we can expect more challenges in the future and a growing skepticism among both professionals and the public.

What should Law Enforcement Officers do?

  • Strictly enforce current standards regarding evidence collection and processing. This is just good police work, and will become more critical as legal and scientific challenges persist.
  • Currently only about half of fingerprint examiners have passed a proficiency exam by the International Association of Identification, the profession’s certifying organization. While there is no evidence that certified examiners are less prone to mistakes, it would be appropriate if all working examiners have passed the test, if nothing else, just to deflect attacks by attorneys.
  • Educate the public in general and jurors specifically. There has been growing apprehension about the “CIS effect,” i.e. the public having unrealistic expectations about forensic evidence. This had led to prosecutors explaining to jurors how the reality of forensics differs from fictionalize versions. With mounting criticism about fingerprints, prosecutors will again find themselves in the role of educators.
  • Change the standards of expert testimony. Currently, examiners are trained to testify only when they “’absolutely certain.” This is a highly unscientific standard, and examiners should be taught to state their opinions in the terms of probability. Of course, research has to be done to establish such probabilities; none exist now. There is no scientific research about the chances of two individuals exhibiting the same or similar ridge characteristics.

Although controversy has been so far limited to latent prints, it is reasonable to extrapolate from current trends challenges to verifications and enrollments as well. Police officers are already powerfully motivated to take good quality prints from enrollees. Access to the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) require print images that meet high quality (all AMREL handheld biometric devices meet FAP-45, an extremely stringent standard). Good quality sensors, especially Light Emitting Sensors (LES), require fewer retakes, and save time. In addition to these established reasons, high-quality fingerprint images also provide a credible defense against legal attacks.

In the long run, it is up to the court of science, not the court of law, to establish the true credibility of fingerprint evidence. In the meantime, law officers’ only option is to pursue their duties with excellence and the best equipment they can acquire.


FBI Certifies AMREL’s Latest Android Rugged Biometric Tablet

AMREL announced the FBI’s certification of Flexpedient® AT80B Rugged Biometric Tablet.  It is now on the exclusive FBI’s Certified Products Listing.

“The FBI has certified that the AT80B is in compliance with the CJIS Division’s Next Generation Identification System Image Quality Specifications (IQS): EBTS Mobile ID FAP 45 Appendix F Specifications,” explains Richard Lane, AMREL Vice President of Strategic Business Development. “It meets or exceeds the criteria for for Single & Dual Finger Flat & Rolled Print which means it can access the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) database.”

AMREL developed the AT80B in cooperation with Integrated Biometrics. Fingerprints are captured by the industry-leading Sherlock, an Integrated Biometrics module which utilizes a state-of-the-art Light Emitting Sensor.  This sensor is fully rugged, uses little power, needs less maintenance than traditional methods, and captures FAP-45 quality images.

“Integrated Biometrics is proud that our LES technology is part of the Flexpedient® AT80B Rugged Biometric Tablet, a rugged device serving mobile identity needs in any environment,” said Mike Grimes, President of Integrated Biometrics.

This rugged tablet is designed to meet MIL-STD 810G and boasts an unusually durable IP67 rating. Built from the ground-up to be rugged, it is far tougher than a commercial tablet in a hardened case.

“The Flexpedient® AT80B Biometric Tablet is built on the AT80 platform,” explains Kalvin Chen, AMREL’s VP of Operations. “AT80’s unique channel design enables true off-the-shelf customization in a short period of time. The two-finger biometric sensor was added in less than a week.

AMREL plans to leverage AT80B’s customization capabilities in order to serve the Law Enforcement community. For example, a smart card reader can be easily and quickly integrated into the AT80B platform. AMREL is exploring adding an iris camera.

When asked about this biometric device, Assistant Chief William ‘Bill’ Leist (Ret) California Highway Patrol replied, “The AT80B is designed to fit the needs of modern law enforcement. The enrollment capability for high quality fingerprint capture will save officers from making unnecessary trips to booking stations. Furthermore, its exceptional ruggedness will ensure it will not break down at critical times.”

Although special measures were taken to assist the Public Safety community, the AT80B is designed for use in a variety of situations. For example, this biometric tablet is being used by professional sports franchises to fast track VIP admissions at games. Another example is the Youth Detention Authority in South Africa, which has piloted the AT80B to verify visitors and track residents at facilities across the country.

Standard features include Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), 8” 10-point multi-touch capacitive touchscreen display, front/back 5 MP cameras, 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, and Bluetooth®.

Learn more at:

AMREL’s New Biometric Handheld – World’s Toughest & FBI Certified

AMREL has announced the FBI’s certification of XP7-ID, the world’s most rugged biometric handheld.xp7

“This is an important milestone not just for us, but for the security and law enforcement community,” explains Richard Lane, AMREL Vice President of Strategic Business Development. “This certification will expand access to the XP7-ID, which is quite simply the most rugged highly integrated biometric smartphone in the world,”

To be on this exclusive FBI’s Certified Products Listing, the XP7-ID was tested and found to be in compliance with the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) System Image Quality Specifications. The review of the test data was conducted by the Technology Evaluation Standards Test Unit, a part of the Biometric Center of Excellence led by the Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

“This certification is just one step on the XP7-ID journey into widespread adoption,” states Mr. Lane, “AMREL worked hard to create a ‘best of breed’ total solution platform that meets the needs of end-users. XP7-ID works on all the carrier networks including AT&T, Verizon, and FirstNet. XP7-ID has features that rival Push-To-Talk radios, live-scan booking stations, in-vehicle computers, as well as body-worn video cameras.”

AMREL developed the XP7-ID in cooperation with Integrated Biometrics. Fingerprints are captured by the industry-leading Sherlock, an Integrated Biometric module which utilizes a state-of-the-art Light Emitting Sensor.  This sensor is fully rugged, uses little power, needs less maintenance than traditional methods, and captures FAP-45 quality images.

“Integrated Biometrics is proud that our LES technology is part of the AMREL XP7-ID Biometric Smartphone, a rugged device serving mobile identity needs in any environment,” said Mike Grimes, President of Integrated Biometrics.

Although the XP7-ID is designed for use in a variety of situations, special measures were taken to serve the Public Safety community. When asked about this biometric device, Assistant Chief William ‘Bill’ Leist (Ret) California Highway Patrol replied, “The XP7-ID is designed to fit the needs of modern law enforcement. The enrollment capability for high quality fingerprint capture will save officers from making unnecessary trips to booking stations.  Furthermore, its exceptional ruggedness will ensure it will not break down at critical times.”

For system integrators as well as Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) software developers and vendors, the XP7-ID is the ultimate Android hardware solution platform. Supported with full application program interface (API), Software Development Kit (SDK) and developer portal, independent developers will be able to connect with every resource needed to build highest quality solutions for mobile identification.

Read more about the AMREL XP7-ID here.

How to buy the right biometric device

Biometrics is of one the world’s most important emerging technologies. They are used to accurately identify criminals, disburse benefits, manage events, protect financial transactions, authorize access, and fight fraud.  If you are considering buying a biometric device, here are a few questions that you need to ask.

1) Do you need to read this article? Most biometric transactions are described as verifications, i.e. are you who you say you are? An example would be laptops and smartphones that have a fingerprint sensor that identifies authorized users. Verification can be performed by relativity simple technologies. A much more challenging application is enrollment, in which biometric information from an individual is captured and stored. Purchasing and deploying an enrollment device involves a very complex evaluative process, poses numerous risks, and may incur unforeseen expenses. If you are looking for a mobile enrollment device, this article is for you.

2) Do you need an enrollment device that is mobile? Mobile biometric devices save time, money, and hassle. Consider the following three scenarios:

• Forward-based soldiers enrolling the inhabitants of a village.

• Policemen enrolling a suspect in the field.

• Event managers enrolling clients at an entertainment/sports venue.

In each of the above examples, mobile frees the workers from the chore of ferrying the enrollees back to a base/station/office to use a stationary biometric device. For most applications, the mobility of an enrollment device is an enormous advantage.

In spite of the benefits, many project managers discard the possibility of a mobile biometric device that has enrollment capabilities, because they believe the technological difficulties are too great or costly. This is unfortunate because economic, practical solutions are available.

3) What modality do you want? Biometric modalities include fingerprint, palm veins, facial recognition, DNA, palm print, iris recognition, retina and odor/scent.

By far and away, the most established, popular, and practical modality is fingerprinting. Fingerprints have the largest, most complete databases available, which is an enormous advantage for the purposes of identification. However, fingerprints have their problems. The fingerprints of the elderly and farm workers have been known to become so worn that they are unusable. This is one reason that it is strongly recommended that your biometric device is multimodal. In addition, using more than one modality reduces the problems of noisy data, “spoofing”(fraud), and unacceptable error rates.

Iris and facial recognition are popular complementary modalities to fingerprinting, but you need to evaluate the specific needs of your application. For example, police like cameras, so they can take pictures of gang tattoos. If you are deploying a biometric device for financial applications in Japan, palm vein, which is popular there, would warrant serious consideration.

4) Do I need a device with multiple fingerprint enrollment capability? Experts strongly recommended enrolling more than one finger. Minor injuries and temporary disabilities can compromise the usability of captured images of a single finger.

5) Do you need access to large databases? This really depends on your application. For example, I use a fingerprint sensor to obtain access to my gym. I assume that my gym doesn’t care about interacting with larger databases that local and national governments use to track criminals. They only want to compare my fingerprints with their client list. However, police departments, FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security need to exchange data with other government databases.

Keep in mind special requirements for specific applications. For example, police departments may need compliance with FirstNet standards. Military applications may need special encryption capabilities. More than one buyer has had to replace their entire line of recently purchased biometric devices because they did not meet the requirements for interaction with large databases.

6) What are the requirements for accesses to national and local databases? The most commonly used national database, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Information System (IAFIS), has very strict standards for the Electronic Fingerprint Templates (EFT) that it accepts. Standards include FAP-45 (Appendix F) and PIV. FAP-45 is the stricter “high-throughput” standard; it is the one that is most likely to affect busy institutional use.

7) How important is the quality of the fingerprint images that my device captures? Very. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) research revealed that image quality directly impacts identification match accuracy. By deploying the highest quality sensors on the most reliable platforms, you can reduce missed identifications/verifications of a subject, additional secondary workload processes, and overall examiner workloads.

8) What kind of fingerprint sensor should I look for? Get a device with a Light Emitting Sensor (LES) sensor. LES multilayer, polymer composite film resists abrasion, operates at extreme temperatures, and isn’t affected by fog or condensation. Unlike traditional optical sensors, direct and bright sunlight do not diminish its ability to capture high quality fingerprint images. Compared to  old-fashion systems, the LES sensor is less sensitive to oils left behind from previous users; other sensors need to be cleaned after each capture.

9) What kind of mobile platform should I look for? Get a rugged device; preferably one with a high IP rating and has met military environmental standards, such as MIL-STD 810. You will spend more on the initial cost, but will save in the long run on repair, lost data, downtime, and lost work hours. Public safety officers, relief workers, and warfighters work in harsh environments. They need devices that can get dirty, get wet, take a beating, and still successfully operate.

If you can answer the above questions, you are ready to get started in your search for a mobile enrollment device. Of course, there are many other factors to be considered. If you have any questions, feel free to contact one of AMREL Application Engineers at (800) 8826735.

For over 30 years, AMREL has been a leader in developing highly reliable, fully rugged mobile solutions that operate in the most demanding environments. We supply more than multi-modal handhelds for collection, enrollment, and identification; we provide a generation of expertise.  We customize even low-volume orders to craft solutions that are perfect for your needs. See our complete line of biometric devices here.

Bank’s Biometric Bandwagon

Biometric applications for financial services have emerged as the darling of venture capitalists. Business journals are filled with reports about banks, such as the giant Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC bank), adopting biometric applications that allow it clients to access their accounts on their mobile devices. When biometric development companies, such as EyeVerify and Nymi secure funding, financial magazines pay attention.

Considering the use of biometrics by financial services is expected to top $8 billion by the year 2020, investor interest is understandable. Up until recently biometrics were applied to law enforcement, military, and other niche security applications. Why is banking jumping on the biometric bandwagon?


Follow the fear

There is a growing perception that traditional methods of securing information (such as passwords) have become increasingly unreliable and vulnerable. Just look at a few recent headlines:

  • In the last 10 years, Identity Theft Resource Center calculates that more than 778 million records have been exposed by data breaches.
  • In 2014 alone, NASDAQ estimates that 700 breaches exposed an estimated 81.5 million consumer records.
  • Highly-publicized hacks include Home Depot, Target, and even the personal financial information of the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

In addition, the growth of mobile devices has created a demand for password alternatives.  People want to conduct financial transactions on their telephone, but they do not want to input account numbers and complex passwords on small mobile screens. Biometric authentication is not only seen as more secure than passwords, but also more convenient.


What is biometrics?

Biometrics technologies identify a person through physical characteristics.  Fingerprints are perhaps the most well-known. Other biometric technologies include iris & retinal scans, heart rhythms, facial & voice recognition, and palm vein identification. Their permanence, convenience, and uniqueness are considered advantageous over conventional passwords.

Biometric applications occupy several broad categories:

  • Enrollment – Entering a person’s physical characteristic and identity into a database. Enrollment is the first experience anyone has with a biometric application. When a person is arrested, they are enrolled, i.e. their fingerprints are inputted into a police database. Enrollment overlaps with registration, which is a process that involves your identity claims. If I enter my fingerprints into a database, while claiming to be Joe Smith, but I am really John Doe, I have successfully enrolled, but have fraudulently registered. Enrollment applications can be very technologically demanding. The quality of digital information entered into national databases is highly regulated, and can be difficult to achieve.
  • Verification (AKA matching) – Are you who you say you are? This is by far the most common use for biometric technologies. Every time someone checks the photograph on your driver’s license, they are verifying your identity by comparing it to a physical characteristic. A closely related application is authentication, which determines if you are authorized for access, i.e. not only you are really John Smith as you claim, but you also are entitled to enter the building. Most biometric applications focus on verification, since it is the one most in demand, and the technologically easiest to create.
  • Identification – Who are you? If you are arrested, and refuse to identify yourself, a police officer can try to find out your name by running your fingerprints through a database. Unlike the verification process, identification doesn’t deal with any claims about identity; it simply establishes identity through a physical characteristic alone. This is a technologically more demanding process than simple verification.

There no standard, universally accepted classification scheme for biometric applications. Even terms can have different meanings (you will notice that sometimes in this article, I use the same word to mean slightly different things). However, the categorizations as defined above are useful in that they communicate broadly the different technologies and needs that are in demand today.


Passé passwords

The adoption of biometric applications by financial services has been driven by the assumption that they are more secure than passwords. There is reason to doubt this.

Passwords, despite their bad reputation, actually work fairly well. In spite of alarming headlines, the vast majority of people do not experience hacks, or at least ones with severe consequences. This is especially true if they take some commonsense precautions, such as separate passwords for important financial accounts, and frequent changes in passwords.

Biometric technology, like passwords, can be hacked. For years, experts have warned about criminals using gelatin “sleeves” to “spoof” fingerprints. Of course, countermeasures can be implemented, but then criminals will work hard to defeat them, which lead to different countermeasures, and so on. Pretty soon, the back-and-forth war of biometric technologies begins to look like the current state of passwords, in which criminals and security experts are involved in a constant battle.

The presence of fingerprint sensors on the iPhone 6 and other popular mobile devices has increased the attractiveness of biometric authentication to financial services. Why not exploit the hardware that many of their customers already have? Of course, the very popularity of these sensors increases their value as targets for criminals.

In addition to fraud, another problem with biometrics is the human body itself. For example, fingerprints can be “rubbed away” by hard physical labor or aging. A bank servicing farmers or an elderly population will have to consider this before mandating fingerprint authentication for accessing financial services.

I am not downplaying the importance of biometrics as an emerging technology. I am simply stating that financial services should adopt them cautiously and be aware that they are not without their problems.

I believe that biometric technology will be used in the financial sector primarily in combination with passwords. Two forms of independent authentication will enable the greatest security.



Since many biometric firms focus their efforts on the “low-hanging fruit” of verification, their potential customers in the financial services are often uninformed about the technological challenges of enrollment.

This is especially important for in-house security. Already, in some banks, officers can only make important transactions after they verify their identity with a biometric authentication. Obviously, when a new employee is hired, enrollment into the bank’s database must happen. For this, the bank will need its own enrollment equipment.

Biometric enrollment equipment need not be cumbersome or difficult to use, but they should be sturdy. Enrollment is often performed by various employees with different levels of skill, not to mention clumsiness. Some commercial biometric devices are fragile, and subject to frequent breakdowns, which can lead to costly delays. It actually makes economic sense for the bank to invest in ruggedized devices that may cost more, but are far more reliable.

Enrollment creates unique demands on biometric devices. The quality of any given device captures varies greatly and could be critical to their utility.

Biometric information is stored in Electronic Fingerprint Templates (EFT) or Electronic Biometric Templates (EBT). To access national databases EFTs/EBTs need to conform to strict criteria. Currently, the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) and the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) demand that EFTs/EBTs match the latest Fingerprint Acquisition Profile (FAP) (the current highest standard being FAP 45). A financial service that wishes to authenticate the identity of its employees or clients would be wise to use enrollment devices that generate FAP 45 quality files.


Solve a security problem by creating a larger one

Although biometric spoofing is a common criminal practice, I am unaware of anyone using a digital biometric file to commit fraud. However, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to envision a stolen EFT/EBT being used to fake an authentication. One day we will see news banners declaring a high-profile hack has pilfered “millions of fingerprints.”

Consequently, biometric applications will force financial services to take stricter security measures, not more relaxed ones. As one skeptic of biometric authentication remarked, a person can change their password, but not their fingerprints. Consumers will want the greatest assurances from banks that their biometric information is safe.


All’s well that ends Orwell

Consumers will need other kinds of assurances as well. There is something a little Orwellian about large institution having intimate information about your physical characteristics.

Any financial service using biometric applications will need to be proactive in assuring their clients. Privacy policies must be public and displayed prominently. Clients should be informed that biometric information will only be used for identification purposes and will not be shared with any third party.

The good news is that, for the most part, consumers have shown little fear of most biometric applications and appreciate their convenience.



The enthusiasm venture capitalists have shown for biometric banking applications is well-founded, but there are unknowns. For example:

  • Will passwords be replaced or merely supplemented?
  • Will facial or voice recognition ever be as robust or support an infrastructure as developed as fingerprints?
  • Will the future demand multimodal or single mode biometrics?

Pioneers who develop and adopt biometric technologies dream their applications will be gold mines. If they guess wrong or lack caution, their gold mine may turn into a money pit.

To learn more about AMREL’s Biometric Solutions, click here.

Are we ready for the FBI’s Next Generation Identification? (NGI)

biometrics1 (2Paranoia in the pines
A few months ago, I went to a music festival in the deep woods. In a remote location, thousands of people gathered to have a good time.

The only fly in the ointment was the rampant paranoia. Planes and helicopters were constantly circling overhead. Rumors came fast and furious. Several times, a festival participant informed me that the aircraft were scanning the crowds using facial recognition technology to capture images that would be evaluated for outstanding warrants. Some people at the festival had previous brushes with the law. More significantly, many feared that local law enforcement wanted to raise revenue for their jurisdiction; they thought that facial recognition technology would enable law officers to identify and arrest festival goers on spurious charges.

Wherever I went at the festival, I did my best to dispel these fears. Such technology doesn’t exist yet, I told disbelieving music lovers. Even if it did, it would be used by the NSA or CIA to search for high-value targets in Waziristan, not by a small town sheriff looking at someone dancing in a drum circle (a forest ranger told me the aircraft were privately owned by rich people who wanted to scope out the crowd, probably looking for scantily clad women).

The FBI is working hard to justify your paranoia
I thought of these rumors when I read FBI’s announcement about their Next Generation Identification (NGI) System. Among the many touted improvements are:

“Currently, the IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) can accept photographs (mugshots) with criminal ten-print submissions. The Interstate Photo System (IPS) will allow customers to add photographs to previously submitted arrest data, submit photos with civil submissions, and submit photos in bulk formats. The IPS will also allow for easier retrieval of photos, and include the ability to accept and search for photographs of scars, marks, and tattoos. In addition, this initiative will also explore the capability of facial recognition technology.”

As mentioned above, the FBI already has the national database of IAFIS for fingerprints. They plan to include iris and facial recognition, because:

“The future of identification systems is currently progressing beyond the dependency of a unimodal (e.g., fingerprint) biometric identifier towards multimodal biometrics (i.e., voice, iris, facial, etc.)…Once developed and implemented, the NGI initiatives and multimodal functionality will promote a high level of information sharing, support interoperability, and provide a foundation for using multiple biometrics for positive identification.”

Sounds like the FBI is making the festival goers’ paranoia a reality, not just in terms of implementing new technology, but also in expanding access to these new tools. As Al Jazeera America put it:

“The FBI has invested considerable energy in recent months in marketing a massive new biometric database to local cops, whom the agency will rely on to help feed it billions of fingerprints, palm prints, mug shots, iris scans and images of scars, tattoos and other identifiers.”

To learn what police are thinking of the FBI’s biometric initiative, I sent some news clippings to Retired Assistant Chief William Leist of the California Highway Patrol (currently, AMREL’s Director of Public Safety Programs). He let me know that AMREL is already developing solutions that will work with the FBI’s NGI. He wrote to me:

“Gone are the days when law enforcement officers needed to arrest, transport to a jail facility, and print an individual who’s identity was in question. FBI’s NGI and AMREL’s Biometric Mobile ID solution will allow officers to quickly identify suspects in the field. This technology will not only enhance officer safety and efficiency, but will also enhance public safety by allowing officers to remain in the field on proactive patrol. Moreover, because this technology can accommodate in-field biometric database enrollments, it opens a host of other options such as mobile booking or cite and release of low level offenders. I don’t believe NGI will replace fingerprints as the article suggests, but it will certainly enhance our biometric ID capabilities and lead to more bad-guys behind bars.”

So, an experience law officer like Bill Leist is onboard for this initiative, and is even working with AMREL to develop biometric solutions that are compatible with it. I’m all for catching bad guys, but even with great mobile biometric devices, I see a few bugs in this expansive national system of identification.

Who pays for all this?
The hardware for capturing palm prints, iris and facial patterns will impact local police departments’ limited resources. More than one police veteran has told me that “There is no such thing as ‘cop proof’ equipment.” Expensive gear routinely gets trashed in the line of duty. To save money on maintenance and repair, police departments will have to spend extra for fully ruggedized biometric devices.

What about all the legacy devices?
Are cash-strapped departments going to scrap their old equipment, because they are incompatible with the FBI’s NGI? Some kind of FAP45 – compatible “biometric add-on” might help with the problem of heterogeneous hardware.

What about the data?
An even greater financial drain will be the “back end.” Managing and processing the torrent of police-generated images will be more costly than the hardware. Unfortunately, most vendors for these solutions target a few large police departments, so their offerings are overpowered and too expensive for the typical small-to-medium sized agency. A month-to-month Software as a Solution (SaaS) might help departments with tight budgets.

What about the training?
With wearable cameras, push-to-talk radios, portable computers and many other gadgets, an average patrolman is getting overwhelmed with technology. He is also overwhelmed with training for all these wonderful devices. Police are certified yearly on their weapons, but as far as I know, only Virginia regularly tests officers on their radio and communication skills. By seeking high-tech solutions, are we subjecting officers to cognitive overload?

What about FirstNet?
Is the FBI’s NGI compatible with FirstNet, the national program for an interoperable network to transmit Public Safety data? In spite of the publicity Firstnet has generated, some departments are barely aware of its existence. What happens if they buy biometric equipment that is not FirstNet compatible?

Despite my skepticism, it seems likely that the FBI’s vision of an integrated national, multimodal biometric database will be a reality. Perhaps, the next time I am surrounded by festival goers afraid of the eye-the-sky, I won’t so casually dismiss their fears. I will simply assure them that it is unlikely the local police can afford to process the thousands of images generated by such a canvassing operation.

Biometrics: Why specs aren’t enough

Those who work in an engineering/hi-tech culture know the  Biometrics Iris Symbol BIOMETRICS importance of “specs.” Go to any biometric solution provider’ workplace, and you will see highly trained professionals closely examining the latest RFP, eagerly analyzing the specifications, as well as the Scope of Work.

Focusing on specifications alone can lead to not only tunnel vision, but also to a kind of passivity.  We shouldn’t sit around waiting for the RFP to tell us what to do. We should go out into the field at every opportunity and seek input from end-users.  That’s why AMREL is a fixture at events such as the Tactical Network Topology (TNT) and Biometrics Field Experiments (BFEX). Read more

AMREL’s New Solid-State Multimodal Biometric Module

AMREL announced a new solid-state, multimodal, biometric moduleAMREL Biometric Solution  utilizing the Vista ViCAM® III Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). This durable, light-weight biometric module makes use of a single-circuit ASIC to support:

  • Dual iris image capture by a single high-resolution glass lens and with one shot
  • 2 finger/rolled electroluminescent sensor that is SAP 45 – Appendix F compliant
  • Quality facial images even in low light environments
  • Voice capture/recognition Read more

Biometric Handheld Solution Reviewed

Biometric Handheld Solution Reviewed

Those guys at Rugged PC Review  just can’t seem to get enough of our rugged mobile solutions. First, they review our  RF8, RK8, RT8 notebooks and our DK8 & DR8 tablets. Now they are raving about our DA-5B, one of our handheld biometric solutions. Clearly, they know quality when they see it.