March rollout for FBI's data sharing system

The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service (CJIS) plans to launch the first increment of its National Data Exchange (N-Dex) law enforcement information sharing system March 19, according to program manager Kevin Reid.

Speaking to GCN this afternoon in a telephone interview, Reid said that CJIS and the N-Dex vendor, Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems, expected to bring in the first increment of N-Dex at a cost of about $41 million'approximately $3 million less than the project budget specified.

Raytheon won the N-Dex contract in February 2007. At the time, the FBI and Raytheon said they expected to complete the first increment by the end of this month.

The first increment of the system will include the features that CJIS' user community specified as the most urgently needed capabilities, including the ability to capture incident and case reporting data and to conduct "entity resolution" on the information.

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies use the term "entity resolution" to describe the process by which they determine whether an individual who may have names with variant spellings, or street names and aliases, is in fact the same person.

Entity resolution problems surface conspicuously in terrorist watch lists. A lesser-known arena that poses problems for entity resolution is the task of figuring out the real identity of people who are incarcerated. Prisoners have many reasons for attempting to conceal their true identities, and thousands of them succeed in doing so, according to law enforcement IT specialists.

The entity resolution process also resolves uncertainties regarding variant ways of describing addresses and similar crime-related concepts such as dates, weapons, vehicles, drugs, prisons and so forth. It relies on methods such as fuzzy logic and various ways of resolving ambiguities about names, including the decades-old Soundex approach and much more modern computational linguistics algorithms used to ferret out the discriminators that various cultures embed in names.

Reid said N-Dex' first increment would provide service to some 50, 000 users. The second and third increments, due in early 2009 and early 2010, will support about 100,00 and 200,000 users respectively, he added.

"A critical point to note with regard to [this first increment of] N-Dex is that we did not sacrifice any of the required capabilities of this first increment to meet the timing and cost [targets]," Reid said.

N-Dex uses an Oracle database management system as a backbone, Reid said. Other components include entity resolution tools from Initiate and Choicepoint.

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