DHS shoves fingerprint tech forward

The Homeland Security Department is working with the departments of Defense and State, the FBI and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology as well as technology vendors to develop a new generation of 10-finger 'slap capture' units for fingerprint collection.

DHS' interest in the new generation of fingerprint stations has been prompted in part by secretary Michael Chertoff's decision announced this summer to require 10-fingerprint records of foreigners crossing the borders.

Chertoff's decision will bring the DHS' Ident database of two-fingerprint records, which it inherited from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, in synch with the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

The department plans to deploy existing 10-print capture systems to border locations where they would be suitable. But the existing systems have size, mobility, speed and power requirements that make them unsuitable for many locations where DHS plans to gather 10 print records, according to procurement documents.

The market research firm Input of Reston, Va., estimates that the department will issue a request for proposals for the new 10-print scanners in April and award contracts for the units in the third quarter of fiscal 2006.

The federal agencies have formed a user group that has sponsored a detailed 'Challenge to Industry' to develop the new units over the next year. The task will include development of hardware and software, according to procurement documents. The government expects to purchase between 3,000 and 10,000 of the new units, according to the documents.

The department held a workshop on the technology in October and responded to questions posed by vendors this autumn.

DHS' requirements for the new units include dozens of detailed specifications as to their performance as well as mandates that the scanners comply with various data compression and scanning standards that will make them compatible with the FBI's systems.

Meanwhile, the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service is preparing to draft requirements for the next generation of software upgrades to IAFIS, sources said.

The IAFIS upgrades will include improved capability to link the system's fingerprint images with other data and evidence about suspects, FBI sources said. The upgrades also will be designed to improve the accuracy of the fingerprint matching system, the sources said.

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