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NGI delivers faster results from more biometric modalities with no shopping mall storage

FBI reviews progress in SIA webinar
NGI delivers faster results from more biometric modalities with no shopping mall storage

FBI biometrics no longer fill a defunct shopping mall, and requests no longer take months to process, but contactless fingerprints remain a challenge for the next-generation identification (NGI) system the agency now uses, attendants of the latest Security Industry Association event heard.

Gary Stroupe, acting assistant section chief, FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Biometric Services Section, delivered a presentation during the third installment in the SIA Identity and Biometric Technology Advisory Board’s (IBTAB’s) webinar series with customer agencies. Stroupe is the operational lead for the FBI’s transition from IAFIS to its NGI, and spoke about the advances being made, as well as a new vendor engagement effort launched by the FBI during the pandemic.

The FBI has been interested in scaling its biometrics capabilities since it was forced to rent out an empty shopping mall and fill it with cabinets of fingerprint data.

The launch of NGI allowed the agency to scale its biometric operations and deliver timely results, but also expands the modalities it uses beyond fingerprints.

CJIS’ NGI serves more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies and 17,000 non-criminal justice agencies, and currently holds almost 140 million fingerprint identities. Just over half of them are from the criminal justice system, and the remainder from civil applications, such as background checks.

The system has processed more than 35 million fingerprint checks so far this year, or around 117,000 per day, which is significantly reduced from pre-COVID numbers, Stroupe says.

The average turnaround time on a biometric match request is just over four and a half minutes for police, and around twice as long for civil checks. Latent and partial print results are typically returned in less than 30 minutes. One of the key benefits of NGI is a much higher matching accuracy for latent prints, according to Stroupe.

While NGI includes newer biometric modalities like iris recognition, palm prints, which Stroupe says make up roughly 30 percent of all latent prints collected at crime scenes, were also added with the transition beyond IAFIS. NGI now includes some 24 million palm print biometric records.

Iris recognition has high potential as an investigative modality due to its accuracy, which may start to be seen once NGI reaches 20-to-30 million templates. Stroupe also acknowledged CJIS’ interest in contactless biometrics, but said that the accuracy of contactless fingerprints at this point is not as good. With the volume of checks conducted by the FBI, a three percent fall-off in accuracy, Stroupe says, adds up to “a lot of misses.”

During the question period concluding the webinar, Stroupe said it is too early to tell impact of local bans on the FBI’s biometrics-sharing efforts.

New engagement program

After the onset of the pandemic, CJIS launched a new capability for setting up meeting with vendors to identify current and future needs, and guide innovation.

Since March 2020 CJIS has engaged with roughly 140 companies, for a total of 185 briefings. Those briefings have included about 20 participants each, which Stroupe characterizes as “an actual conversation.”

He also lauded the efforts of biometrics vendor community in reducing, possibly even eliminating bias in facial recognition algorithms.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s biometrics initiatives were presented in a May episode of the series.

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