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Federal News Radio explores U.S. Department of Defense 30-year roadmap for biometrics

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has a 30-year roadmap for biometric technology and its potential uses, and it includes ambitious plans for several different biometric modalities, according to Federal News Radio.

Department of Defense deputy project manager and Chief engineer for biometrics Will Graves told Federal News Radio that DoD will test five different biometrics this year. “It’s a very interesting time, being in biometrics.”

Graves says that in his former position at the Department of Homeland Security, facial recognition extended to 30 feet, whereas its range is now almost a kilometer at the DoD. “When we say ‘face-at-a-distance’ we’re using a telephoto lens, but it’s not that easy to throw a telephoto lens on a video capture,” he explains.

Atmospherics and heat waves can present technical challenges, requiring high frame rates and algorithm adjustments. Graves says that in a recent test, the heat from a helicopter 500 meters away prevented the facial recognition system from even sensing the presence of a face, even though it could be seen with the human eye.

The DoD plans to use contactless biometrics for access control at forward operating bases, according to the article, and has had some success matching contactless fingerprints with “on-the-move” facial recognition. The next step is to develop algorithms that are effective with facial images captured at angles.

It also plans to improve its ability to scrape identifying information from material available on the dark web and social media, such as ISIS recruitment videos. While this may cause some privacy concerns, U.S. citizens are protected from DoD scrutiny by privacy laws. “Because [members of ISIS are] not U.S. citizens, the DoD doesn’t extend the Privacy Act of 1974 like DHS does,” Graves says. “DHS provides privacy protections to everybody. The DoD has a little different interpretation of that. So, if they’re not U.S. citizens, they don’t really have that privacy protection.”

The DoD is working with the University of Virginia to enable DNA samples to be processed in the field, rather than a lab, by improving the efficiency of equipment and reducing its size. Currently, Graves says a 10-pound device using CD technology reduces the chemicals needed for testing through use of centripetal force.

For voice recognition, DoD is attempting to develop an algorithm to pick individual voices out of a crowd recorded on a handheld device. Graves also referred to the department’s previously reported plans to replace the Common Access Card with biometrics, and said that the current system has already built a database which includes iris and fingerprint data.

The roadmap will be adjusted as time goes on, and Graves says this has often happened when commercial technology reaches a goal before military researchers do, as when palm vein pattern analysis was introduced into Japanese ATMs.

Whatever future biometric technologies are implemented in the field, the DoD intends to leverage the many sensors already deployed with troops, Graves says. “In the past, the paradigm was you had a sensor, and you had an algorithm. We’re trying to break that.”

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