DHS poised to launch fingerprint scanner pilots

Federal officials expect to test the 10-fingerprint scanner technology that they have persuaded vendors to develop at 11 airports this summer, according to the Homeland Security Department.

P.T. Wright, acting deputy director of the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. Visit) program, said today that the tests would evaluate the performance of two scanners the department ordered last month: the Identix Touch Print 4100 Enhanced Definition Device provided by L-1 Identity Solutions Inc. of Stamford, Conn., and the Crossmatch L Scan Guardian Scanners provided by Crossmatch Technologies Inc. of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

DHS already has fielded the new generation of 10-finerprint scanners at six consulates and embassies overseas, Wright said. DHS has spurred companies to develop the new generation of smaller, faster 10-fingerprint scanners during the past year via a series of technical meetings, industry days and technology discussions driven by U.S. Visit's prospective purchase of thousands of the units.

For this summer's tests, U.S. Visit officials plan to deploy the scanners at airports in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Dallas, Houston, Miami, New York City, Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia and San Francisco.

Also this summer, U.S. Visit officials will launch tests of a reshaped approach to recording the exit of travelers whose transit into and out of the country falls within the program's authority. 'We need to blend [the exit phase of U.S. Visit] in with the departure process,' Wright said.

DHS earlier had tested the use of kiosks, including wireless kiosks, that passengers at airports could use to scan their U.S. Visit documents and record their departure from the country. That process reportedly prompted difficulties because travelers didn't always find the kiosks easy to use.

In the new exit processing approach, officials seek to combine the U.S. Visit departure processing with one, or possibly more than one, of the three stages during an airborne departure where travelers already pause for processing: departure desk check-in, processing by Transportation Security Administration screeners and processing at the gate.

DHS said it would start by purchasing 50 of the scanners between the two task orders awarded to the resellers that secured the contracts to sell the Crossmatch and Identix units. Those contracting companies were Technica Corp. of Dulles, Va., and CounterTrade Products Inc. of Arvada, Colo. The Technica Corp. task order totaled $7.6 million, including all options, while the CounterTrade order amounted to $7.2 million, with all options, DHS said.

The task orders each included options for the purchase of 3,000 additional scanners.

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