USSOCOM developing touchless biometric fingerprint app for identification in the field

The U.S. military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is currently developing a smartphone application for soldiers in the field to perform touchless collection of fingerprints or other biometrics, National Defense reports.

Speaking at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida, SOCOM Program Executive Office for Special Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Exploitation Program Manager for Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) Glen Cullen said the technology is intended to reduce inconsistencies in data capture quality found with traditional systems and sensors. The app would enable military personnel to acquire fingerprints by taking a picture of the subject’s fingers, Cullen told National Defense.

Cullen says the SOCOM is pioneering touchless technology, as the systems currently in use all require physical contact. By shifting to a software application, SOCOM hopes to reduce costs and free personnel from the burden of carrying around larger tactical devices to gather information.

“That means that anybody who’s got a cell phone can now collect fingerprints from somebody,” explains Cullen. “We’re hoping that that’s going to drive the price down. Instead of paying for a device, we’re just going to be paying for an app.”

A request for information (RFI) was issued late last year, and an event was held in March to learn about work from multiple vendors. A single vendor is expected to be chosen next spring, and another RFI may be released in the next few months. Cullen says SOCOM plans to deploy the technology in 2021.

The hardware will still matter, as smartphones need to be more durable than those used by other agencies, such as law enforcement, Cullen says.

Touchless fingerprint capture technologies have been on the market for some time in terminal form, and in mobile phone camera-based systems like Veridium’s 4 Fingers TouchlessID, but it is not clear if any existing technology already meets SOCOM’s operational requirements.

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