“Human Factors” and Biometrics at DHS

August 1, 2014 - 

This is a guest post by Chuck Brooks, Vice President/Client Executive for DHS at Xerox.

Inside the Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S & T) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a little known group called The Human Factors and Behavioral Sciences Division (HFD). Their purpose is to applied social and behavioral sciences “to improve detection, analysis and understanding of homeland security threats.”

Biometrics plays a significant role in HDF’s research. Key areas of their research activities include, capability in real-time positive verification of individual’s identity utilizing multiple biometrics, and mobile biometric screening such as handhelds and smart devices. DHS S & T and HDF work very closely with the National Labs, universities, and designated Center of excellence to develop and test technologies in the human factors area, especially in informatics and decision support.

In transportation security, people screening is paramount for national security. The operational focus requires a balance of safety, commerce, and privacy. Screeners must provide rapid, accurate and non-invasive analysis in near real-time conditions. This is not an easy task, especially the need to acquire the biometrics under the balanced operational focus. Interesting technologies are developed not only in ex-ray and back-scatter technologies, but also in biometric capabilities. This includes video facial recognition of potential terrorist on a watch list, fingerprint capture, and potentially iris identification of travelers. Also, HFD conducted research on a Rapid DNA program that would allow low-cost biometric verification of family relationships, especially to validate fraudulent immigration claims.

HFD has carried out research aimed at integrating various biometric identifiers (fingerprints, face images, iris recognition) called the Multi-modal Biometrics project. The project examined the capability to collect, compare and match biometric samples from different sources in real-time without impeding the movement of individuals. Such applications will have benefits to first responders in an emergency scenario as well as screeners in transportation security.

In one interesting project with one of the labs, HFD examined the intelligent fusion of sensor components in a futuristic checkpoint. The set-up consisted of behavioral sensors to try to measure hostile intent with micro facial and auditory sensors. They combined those sensors with physiological sensors to monitor respiratory, cardio, thermal, and Iris reaction of passengers who may mean harm. In the future we may see these integrated systems if the speed, throughput, and privacy controls can be improved and validated. Also, new advances in data analytics deriving information from the behavioral and physical sensors make rapid decision support practical at checkpoints.

The future of biometric research, development and prototyping at DHS via the S & T Directorate and the Human Factors and Behavioral Sciences Division is promising. Continued investment in this area is essential to continue to develop and deploy the next generation of technologies. As the threat to transportation security grows and becomes more sophisticated, our detection and validation capabilities must be one step ahead.

DISCLAIMER: BiometricUpdate.com blogs are submitted content. The views expressed in this blog are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BiometricUpdate.com.

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About Chuck Brooks

Charles (Chuck) Brooks serves as Vice President/Client Executive for DHS at Xerox. Xerox . Chuck served in government at the Department of Homeland Security as the first Director of Legislative Affairs for the Science & Technology Directorate. He also spent six years on Capitol Hill as a Senior Advisor to the late Senator Arlen Specter and was Adjunct Faculty Member at Johns Hopkins University where he taught homeland security and Congress. Chuck has an MA in International relations from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Political Science from DePauw University. Chuck is published on the subjects of homeland security, cybersecurity and emerging technologies. Connect with Chuck on Linked In or follow him on Twitter @ChuckDBrooks