fingerprinting centers in Florida, five of which participated in the one-year AFAPS pilot.

Serving a Need

Industry experts point to numerous reasons why states and municipalities may be queuing up to implement fingerprint identification.

First is the increasing public acceptance of fingerprinting as a benign form of identification -- not something merely equated with felons. Nine out of 10 top PC manufacturers now offer notebook models with embedded fingerprint sensors, according to Eric Bauer, a marketing analyst for AuthenTec, a fingerprint sensor security company. He also points out that 2010 census workers will be using fingerprints to secure their census-taking devices.

Perhaps most telling, Bauer suggested, is the cost. With adoption in the consumer market, the average cost of a fingerprint sensor has dropped below the $5 mark.

The push for identification also is being driven by Jessica's Law in Florida, which requires schools to run checks on anyone working on school grounds. "Most state laws require school teachers to be fingerprinted and have a background check," said IBT CEO Charlie Carroll. "You've got workers being fingerprinted before they can come on school property."

Moreover, Florida isn't the only state looking at fingerprint technology potential for its insurance agents. In Pennsylvania, applicants' digits get scanned at Thomson Prometric Exam Centers using Live Scan biometric technology. Operators of the system say that by tapping into FBI databases, the electronic capture method typically generates criminal history records in less than 10 days, as compared to 30 days for ink cards.

Banister suggested the state might ultimately look to expand its use of fingerprinting to health care and education. In both of these areas, individuals often come into contact with the public in sensitive ways.

But it is less about numbers, she said, than about fulfilling agency missions. "Our first priority is protecting consumers, and with this fingerprinting program, we can make sure that candidates [in different fields] are good upstanding people."

Adam Stone  |  Contributing Writer