Mobile Biometrics: Fingerprints

From the field and in a matter of seconds

Mobile Biometrics: Fingerprints
By: Susan Geoghegan

The expansion of mobile technology has virtually transformed modern-day policing with such devices as laptops, license plate readers, mobile phones, and digital video recorders. The use of mobile technology allows police officers to perform their jobs while on patrol, resulting in more efficiency, accuracy and safety.

In the past several years, mobile fingerprint devices have become standard issue in many law enforcement agencies nationwide. Equipped with these compact handheld devices and smartphones, officers can capture an individual’s fingerprint and submit it to a searchable database for a possible match, all from the field and in a matter of seconds.

Automated Fingerprint Technology

The Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is a biometric identification methodology that uses digital imaging to capture a fingerprint, which can then be compared to a database of fingerprint records to help determine the identity of an individual. In 1999, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) was formed to give local, state and federal law enforcement agencies access to the same huge database for more efficient information sharing.

Maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services division (CJIS), IAFIS houses fingerprints, criminal histories, mug shots, scars and tattoo photos, physical characteristics, and aliases. The system also includes civil fingerprints, such as U.S. military personnel and employees of the federal government.

After a fingerprint image is captured, a biometric template is digitally created, and selected data points of the image are then extracted and interpreted. Next, the template is compared to a searchable database, and generally within less than a minute the information is processed. Automated fingerprint technology can be used for both identification and verification purposes. Verification is a one-to-one comparison (1:1) of a biometric to confirm an individual’s identity, while identification is a one-to-many (1:N) of a biometric against a database to try and find a match.

When an individual’s fingerprint is scanned for the first time, additional information is also captured, such as name, phone number, or social security number. If that same person’s fingerprint is scanned at a future time, he/she is identified through that information, and then verified through the biometric match. 

Verification only proves that the person in question is the one who originally enrolled, answering the question “am I who I claim I am?” With identification, the enrollment process is the same as with verification. That person can then be identified from just his/her fingerprint because it is compared against an entire database, preventing duplicate enrollments and answering the question, “Who am I?”


Implementation Support and Solutions

Biometric fingerprint solutions provide end-to-management for the enrollment, authentication, and storage of all captured data, and are compatible with all mobile devices, such as compact handhelds, smartphones, and notebooks. Determining which hardware and software solutions will best meet an agency’s needs can be a daunting task. What might be the ideal choice for a small police department may not be appropriate for a medium-size or large agency.

Those operating within a tight budget must find affordable yet effective solutions, while those with more dollars to spend have a broad range of options. To make the right decision, it is important to find a vendor that will assist throughout the entire process, from setup and deployment to training and post-install support.

According to Scott Howard, Vice President of Operations for AFIX Technologies, Inc., key issues for agencies to consider during the pre-implementation phase include workflow performance requirements, desired speed of response to officers in the field, and which platform or platforms will best address their needs. Howard believes that the benefits offered by the AFIX Mobile ID solution make it suitable for both small and large law enforcement agencies: low cost of acquisition and operation, platform diversity, ease of upgrading hardware components, and collaborative access to a nationwide network of law-enforcement fingerprint databases.

AFIX Mobile ID is a compact, handheld device that links via Bluetooth™ to a compatible, custom-supplied, pre-configured smartphone or notebook computer. It works with a wide range of Android devices from any cellular service provider, allowing agencies to leverage their existing service to avoid additional fees. It captures forensic-quality fingerprint images for transmission to remote AFIX Tracker databases for fast, accurate identification of unknown subjects.

Since AFIX Mobile ID incorporates widely available COTS hardware, performance upgrading is possible without the necessity to replace the entire system. “AFIX Mobile ID is designed with flexibility and scalability in mind, providing agencies with the option to choose either a super-mobile handheld system using the latest smartphone technology, or a PC-based system that integrates AFIX Mobile ID with the notebook computers already installed in most agencies’ patrol vehicles,” Howard said.

AFIX Technologies assists agencies with implementation of the system throughout the entire process. “During the pre-installation process we will assist with determining the appropriate hardware platform(s) to meet each agency’s needs, and will also assist in providing integration of the AFIX Tracker and AFIX Mobile ID system with legacy systems such as live scan and records management systems (RMS),” Howard said. “We also assist with establishment of required networking and wireless communications connectivity, and facilitate establishment of links with agencies in the AFIX Remote Search network for collaborative data access.” 

MorphoTrak, Inc. also prides itself on working closely with each client to find the solution best suited for their needs. A subsidiary of Morpho (Safran Group), the company offers a broad array of identity management solutions for both the private and public sectors. As the largest customer service organization in the biometrics industry, MorphoTrak provides high-level mission-critical support 24/7. Since its inception, Morpho has captured over 3 billion fingerprints and their products are used by more than 450 government agencies in over 100 countries.

MorphoIDent™, the company’s latest handheld mobile ID device for law enforcement, enables real-time identification based on Morpho’s cutting-edge fingerprint recognition technology. Senior Director of Marketing and Communications for MorphoTrak, Robert Horton, said that MorphoIDent can integrate with either the officer’s phone or the police car’s laptop computer, and is well suited for both small and large departments.

All data managed by the device is transferred via Bluetooth or USB to a PC, smartphone or PDA running the MorphoMobile application. Measuring 5.2 x 2.6 x 0.7 inches and weighing in at only 5.3 ounces, this compact yet rugged device fits neatly in the palm of the hand. Other MorphoMobile features include standard NIST file generation and management and remote identification on Central AFIS and FBI NGI Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC).

A leading global provider of biometric identity management solutions, Cross Match Technologies, Inc. provides full implementation services that include equipment installation, and system administration for training and deployment of livescan systems. Their skilled consultants assess the biometric needs of each customer and evaluate emergent biometric capabilities to ensure delivery of the most appropriate solution. Trained on all aspects of Cross Match solutions, customer care associates are available 24/7 to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

Designed specifically for law enforcement, the Cross Match Rapid ID solution allows in-field identification and provides one of the only certified FAP 30 mobile devices for capturing forensic-quality fingerprints. The Mobile Rapid ID solution is centered on the Cross Match Verifier® Mw, the FBI-certified handheld portable fingerprint capture device. Verifier Mw was designed to provide military and law enforcement agencies with the capability to immediately capture and collect forensic-quality fingerprint images.

In 2010, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) implemented the Rapid ID solution to help modernize its identity verification process, incorporating it into FALCON, FDLE’s state-of-the-art system for identifying criminal suspects and reporting data. CrossMatch Mobile Rapid ID is certified by FDLE for use with FALCON, providing instant submission of biometric data and access to critical information for in-field identification.

The Rapid ID solution delivers a hit/no hit response and quickly engages with FALCON, enabling the officer to make an immediate on-site decision. Combined with patented Auto Capture™ software for reduced user errors, the handheld Verifer Mw allows captured images to be transmitted to AFIS in NIST-compliant format for identity verification.

BI2 Technologies, Inc. offers its Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System (MORIS™) as an affordable solution for smaller agencies, providing them with immediate access to searchable databases. MORIS™ is a handheld, fully integrated multi-modal biometric device for iris, fingerprint and facial recognition capture. Designed to work with an iPhone, MORIS™ utilizes AuthenTec’s TCS1 TouchChip® fingerprint sensor to capture high-resolution fingerprint digital images which are encrypted and transmitted for comparison against fingerprints of known criminals.

MORIS’ fingerprint module is FBI certified, meeting the specifications listed in EBTS Appendix F Mobile ID SAP 10 using Personal Identity Verification (PIV) Single Finger Capture Device Specifications of the FBI’s IAFIS Image Quality Specifications. Sean Mullin, President and CEO of BI2 Technologies, said, “MORIS™ combines nearly instantaneous identification results to authorized law enforcement officials by capturing a digital image of an individual’s iris, face or fingerprint, and transmitting and comparing those images over a secure wireless network to previously entered data. If a match is found, MORIS™ provides identity confirmation and previous criminal history in a matter of seconds from virtually anywhere.”

BIO-key International, Inc. delivers high-performance, scalable biometric finger identification technology that is easy-to-use and cost-effective. Continuously updating their software to accommodate the most popular hardware solutions, the company provides consultative support to all its clients.

Scott Mahnken, Vice President of Marketing for BIO-key, said “In most cases, customers are already using an operating system we are familiar with and we traditionally council them on the best fingerprint readers for the project (for their specific purpose—taking into consideration environmental conditions, utilization demands, cost and compliance).”

On the rare occasion when a customer asks BIO-key to adapt to a new type of hardware, the company will work directly with the manufacturer to secure a few products to test and integrate with. “It might take a little longer and there might be a few hiccups along the development path, but inevitably we can offer a solution and incorporate the new hardware into our solution set. Smartphones and tablets do not have an embedded reader just yet—thus in these cases BIO-key has integrated our software to work with the snap-on accessories that allow for fingerprinting on the device,” Mahnken stated.

BIO-key conducts 41 image enhancements when processing each fingerprint image. Over 200 points of data are referenced in each enrollment and authentication of a fingerprint, and BIO-key software will inspect over 2,000 indications for each fingerprint processed.

Once a mathematical template is created from the captured fingerprint image, patented Vector Segment Technology (VST) is used to connect and interpret the extracted data points. The template is then compared to the database and a positive ID is returned in less than one second.

BIO-key offers a flexible enrollment process that eliminates the need to enroll on every device, and the enrollment of three images of each finger facilitates identification.


Evolving Trends in Fingerprint Biometrics

Fingerprint biometric technology continues to evolve with system improvements such as enhanced algorithm accuracy, advanced sensor capabilities, and increased Subject Acquisition Profile (SAP) levels. In addition, the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) program is working to expand its IAFIS criminal and civil fingerprint database by providing a flexible framework of core capabilities that serves as a platform for multimodal functionality.

Introduced across a multi-year timeframe within a phased approach, the NGI program was developed to reduce terrorist and criminal activities by improving and expanding biometric identification and criminal-justice information services.

As the FBI’s NGI integrator, Lockheed Martin recently incorporated Morpho’s latest algorithms to process latent finger and palm prints and including, for the first time, all the friction ridge areas of the hand. The MorphoTrak-supplied expert latent workstation software was enhanced and customized in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and the FBI as part of the third and largest phase of the NGI implementation.

Morpho’s latest algorithms will improve the volume, speed, and accuracy of matching latent and other crime scene prints against the FBI’s database of finger and palm prints. Inclusion of the searchable friction ridge area of the hand will result in increased identification and capture of criminals and terrorists, and play a vital role in cold case resolution.

Due to the widespread use of fingerprint biometrics, some individuals have begun taking drastic measures to mask their identities. Some burn or mutilate their fingerprints, while others have their fingerprints surgically changed. In 2011, Michigan State University licensed advanced software to Morpho that detects altered fingerprints.

Anil K. Jain, the University Distinguished Professor of computer science and engineering at MSU, developed the software to assist law enforcement and border control officials to apprehend these individuals. “The technology can raise a flag so officials can then perform a secondary inspection to reveal the person’s true identity,” Jain explained.

According to Horton, Morpho has developed technology that addresses another trend among criminals trying to avoid detection: the use of prosthetic fingers. The MorphoSmart™ Optic 301 fingerprint reader utilizes patented Fake Finger Detection technology that analyzes specific features of the human skin to detect and reject spoofing attacks. Used in a broad range of applications, such as border control and access control in sensitive areas, the MSO 301 has gone through rigorous analysis and testing in order to meet the industry’s highest standards for spoof detection, and has been certified by German certification body BSI.

BI2’s Mullin believes the major trend in fingerprint technology will be an increase in the Subject Acquisition Profile (SAP). “While the minimum scanning resolution and image dimensions will probably stay the same for the foreseeable future, the minimum image area (as defined by NIST) will significantly increase from SAP 10 (.5-inch x .65-inch) to SAP 60 (3.2 inches x 3.0 inches), and the number of fingerprints that can be captured by the sensors simultaneously will increase from 1 to 4.”

While this will significantly improve the quality and accuracy of fingerprint images, the larger size of the sensors may not be conducive to current mobile applications. “The weight of the mobile devices will not change significantly, but the size of the sensor (i.e., at least four times as large to capture four fingers simultaneously) will require changes to mobile devices,” said Mullen.

Hinman (Cross Match) said the trend in fingerprint biometrics is toward developing sensors that are lighter and thinner. Cross Match has incorporated new sensor technology into some of its biometric solutions, including the SEEK Avenger and EF200. “This means leveraging new sensing technologies that do not incorporate larger profile, heavy prisms, but still capture images capable of meeting FBI certification standards.”

Mahnken feels mobility will continue to be the prime consideration in future biometrics technology, noting that companies such as LG and Google are looking to include biometric technology as part of their mobile platforms. While smartphones and tablets provide enhanced communication and access, the “bring your own device” (BYOD) trend presents a challenge to all security professionals with increased fraud, identity theft, and data breaches. “We predict mobile devices will replace your wallet as passports, driver’s licenses, and other traditional credentials will be accessed by the device, but the data stored in the cloud.”

Mahnken said that from the business perspective there are two terms that have evolved: risk-based and role-based authentication. “For example, to access Facebook I might use a traditional password. But to access my reports from work, I would use my fingerprint. The terms “risk-based and role-based” are used to describe this method of security. In the bank it might be “role-based” as tellers use passwords to conduct transactions, while those managing the larger transactions might be asked to use fingerprint.”

Vice President of Sales for AFIX, Susan Amick, agrees that the use of fingerprint biometrics technology will extend beyond law enforcement. “Banks, credit card companies, health clubs, medical records, and point-of-sales devices are just a few of the vertical markets that are now utilizing fingerprint biometrics.” She also points out that, as an AFIS provider, AFIX is focused on providing the most up-to-date algorithm grows for searching and matching the prints (both known and unknown) collected.


Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, Fla. She can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Sep 2013

Rating : 10.0




Posted on : Sep 7 at 8:00 PM By Farah June

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