Fingerprinting has always been the most exacting way to verify someone’s identity. But in the days before IT revolutionized crime-fighting, it was a painfully tedious one.
To run a check on a suspect’s fingerprints, police agencies had to mail ink-blotted cards to the FBI, which then sifted—by hand—through a catalogue of a million index cards for up to two months to find a potential match.
That all changed with the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). With IAFIS, that same fingerprint request could be handled in a mere 15 minutes—24 hours a day, 365 days a year—with the push of a button. Lockheed Martin developed the core biometrics engine within IAFIS that cross-checks a mountain of digital fingerprints in a matter of minutes, demonstrating the power of information technology for government operations.
From the day it went live in 1999, IAFIS represented the very zenith of crime-fighting technology. That is until Lockheed Martin introduced a second-generation system that is taking identity verification to a whole new level.
The Ultimate Crime Fighter
The introduction of IAFIS—which stores a mix of fingerprints, criminal histories, mug shots, and electronic images—forever changed the speed and accuracy with which law-enforcement agencies could fight crime.
Fingerprints for a man arrested for loitering in Florida, for instance, could quickly reveal an outstanding warrant for murder in California. Cold cases requiring highly detailed fingerprint analyses were reopened across the country. And the remains of victims found in the wake of national tragedies, including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, were now able to quickly be identified, helping bring closure to grieving families.
By 2012, the average volume for IAFIS was 131,568 searches a day, a number Lockheed Martin hopes to dwarf with its development of the FBI’s new system—dubbed Next Generation Identification (NGI)—which is capable of performing 650,000 fingerprint checks per day at an astounding 99 percent accuracy rate.
Worth the RISC
One major component of NGI is already paying dividends: the Repository for Individuals of Special Concern, or RISC. Debuting in the fall of 2011, RISC helps FBI agents search a specialized nationwide database of criminals – from wanted persons to known terrorists – with lightning speed. With RISC, law enforcement personnel know in seconds whether the suspect they are dealing with is a dangerous or wanted criminal. RISC averages 800 searches a day, with an average response time of just eight seconds. The expected RISC workload is expected to grow quickly to more than 60,000 searches a day as more law enforcement agencies begin to use the service.”
With updated features rolling out at regular intervals through 2014, NGI will store and compare a wide variety of new data, from partial prints and palm impressions to tattoos and unique facial markers such as lopsided jaws or distinctive scars, offering law enforcement agencies a vast catalogue of search engines to work with.
After more than three years in development and the re-characterization of 93 million sets of fingerprints, NGI’s fingerprint capability went live on February 25, 2011. Within five days, it had already made 910 new identification matches that the old system could not, adding yet another cutting-edge, crime-fighting weapon in the FBI’s already impressive arsenal.
Sources and Further Reading
- “Catching Terrorists by Their Fingerprints,” http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/october/iafis101008, accessed 11 May 2012.
- “FBI. Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System,” http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/fingerprints_biometrics/iafis/iafis, accessed 11 May 2012.
- “Eye Scan Technology Comes to Schools,” http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=1539275#.T6wqp47w-pI, accessed 11 May 2012.
- “Revolutionizing Fingerprints,” Connect: Information Systems & Global Solutions, Second Quarter 2011, vol. 5, no. 2.
- “FBI’s Next-Gen ID Databank to Store Face Scans—A Good Idea?” http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/forensics/4270770, accessed 11 May 2012.
- With IAFIS, a fingerprint request can be handled in a mere 15 minutes—24 hours a day, 365 days a year—with the push of a button.
- By 2012, the average volume for IAFIS was 131,568 searches a day, a number Lockheed Martin hopes to dwarf with its development of the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification (NGI)—which is capable of performing 650,000 fingerprint checks per day at an astounding 99 percent accuracy rate.