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Forensic applications of next-gen biometrics boosted by acquisition, police planning

Forensic applications of next-gen biometrics boosted by acquisition, police planning

Next-generation biometrics for forensic analysis by law enforcement are big business, and expected to grow, as evidenced by Qiagen’s acquisition of Verogen for $150 million. Similar signs are seen in a UK policy document and law enforcement efforts around the world.

The consolidation of the DNA-sequencing providers is intended to boost Qiagen’s established position in the criminal forensics market with Verogen’s next-generation sequencing (NGS) tools

Matches are impeded by traditional techniques in between 60 percent and 85 percent of cases, according to the announcement. These approaches, utilizing short-tandem-repeat analysis based on capillary electrophoresis, have created a backlog of a million cases in the U.S., the companies say.

Verogen’s NGS is expected to help address this limitation. The company’s MiSeq sequencer will now be exclusively sold by Qiagen, as will its GEDmatch database and portal, which allow users to upload genetic profiles created by other genealogy sites.

“Bringing together Verogen and Qiagen creates a unique opportunity to better help investigators and researchers to advance forensic science and to find missing persons, accurately identify suspects and exonerate the innocent,” says Thierry Bernard, CEO of Qiagen. “The power of NGS has created so many applications that were not possible before, and its use in forensics is another opportunity for Qiagen to provide the most complete workflow and help improve the lives of people around the world.”

The deal extends a relationship between the DNA biometrics providers, which have had a distribution partnership since mid-2021.

UK plans for more digital policing

The UK’s ‘National Digital Policing Strategy 2020-2030’ has been released, along with the Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group framework document. The former considers the role of newer biometric capabilities like real-time facial recognition and mobile DNA and fingerprint matching in law enforcement, while the latter sets out the formal responsibilities and operations of the ethical oversight body.

In an interview with Inside Government, Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave QPM of the Met says the job being carried out by live facial recognition systems trialled by Met Police is “technology doing a job that police already do; we just happen to be using technology to do it because it’s quicker, more efficient, and also better at doing the job.”

Policy changes and ever-larger volumes of digital evidence, including biometrics, require disclosure by police, which Ephgrave points out creates its own challenge.

Ephgrave also expresses optimism at the impact that rapid DNA or fingerprint biometric matches on the street could have on decisions made by officers to arrest an individual or not. In the not-too-distant future, he sees DNA results being returned to officers in the field within 30 seconds.

The digital policing strategy does not refer explicitly to either facial recognition or DNA matching, but notes that biometrics are expected to “have significant impact on the way policing operates in 2030 and beyond.”

Dubai police using gait recognition

Biometrics have been used by police in Dubai to clear 2,290 cases since 2017, according to stats from the General Department of Forensics and Criminology reported by Forensic Yard.

The force has used facial recognition for some time, but increased its focus on other biometric modalities in the wake of the widespread mask usage occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubai Police General Command won an International Association of Police Chiefs award in 2020 for its work with gate analysis. The force also uses ear biometrics, amongst other modalities, according to the report.

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