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IDEMIA Aims for Local Police With Cloud Fingerprint System

The company, a major biometric identification vendor for law enforcement, hopes that by putting the technology in the hands of more agencies it will make the whole practice of fingerprint matching more useful.

Closeup of a fingerprint in green being scanned against a black background.
IDEMIA, a major provider of forensic and other tools for law enforcement, has put out new cloud-based fingerprint matching software in the hopes that it can enable smaller local agencies to start using the technology for the first time.

Though IDEMIA had already begun offering its MBIS software for biometric identification in the cloud, the company’s new product — IDEMIA STORM ABIS — was built for the cloud from the ground up. The result, said IDEMIA VP of Justice and Public Safety Michael Hash, is more affordable software that could fit more easily into the budgets of a city police department or county sheriff’s office.

“When we look at larger agencies, state agencies and federal agencies, they have a lot of unique requirements that these systems have to comply to — either because of policy or legislation — in terms of how they handle fingerprint identification,” Hash said. “Each large state and large federal agency system we’ve done in the U.S. and globally are highly unique, highly customized, so they’re relatively expensive. A lot of smaller agencies can’t afford that complexity. So with STORM, we really made that an out-of-the-box (automated biometric identification system) that requires minimal configuration, that can fit into their ecosystem, and that’s affordable.”

As a result, many small local agencies simply don’t have ABIS. If they need to find somebody by a photo, fingerprint or other biometric identifier, they will probably turn to the state — and get results back on the state’s time.

“There could be latency from the time they submit it to the state, or if it has to go to the FBI, there could be latencies in that chain in terms of the response times,” he said. “And there’s a lot of variables in there, but sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s slow.”

More than that, making ABIS more accessible to smaller agencies means — in theory — that more police officers will be collecting more fingerprints at more crime scenes. Since the very reason to have such a system is to match one fingerprint to another, that makes it more likely that any given fingerprint collected will have a match.

“Not every crime type gets fingerprints, not every crime type gets submitted to the state or to the FBI, so you really have incomplete databases,” Hash said. “So really a primary driver for local and smaller agencies to have their own technology is (that) they can collect all fingerprints for all crime types.”

Right now, STORM only offers fingerprint matching. But over time the company intends to expand it to other biometric markers like other ABIS products typically offer.

Aside from expanding the reach of the system, Hash said there are numerous advantages to having such a system in the cloud. Hosting such systems in the cloud, as opposed to on-premises in a local database, means it can easily scale up and down depending on usage, and is less vulnerable to down time as IT shops perform server maintenance. By the same token, it’s less vulnerable to disruption from events such as a natural disaster.

It also makes it easier to access.

“Our law enforcement customers can really access the system from any agency-approved computer — a laptop, a PC — they can have a secure connection from their house, say via VPN to their agency, they can access the system there as well,” Hash said. “So it really plays to broader accessibility to law enforcement agencies, which is really relevant when you think about COVID and what COVID has done to all the workforce, really shifting people from physical brick-and-mortar locations to remote locations.”
Ben Miller is the associate editor of data and business for Government Technology. His reporting experience includes breaking news, business, community features and technical subjects. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, and lives in Sacramento, Calif.