Army Deploys Biometrics System to Iraq
Service officials could decide soon whether to deploy the system elsewhere.
Army researchers are providing a system to forces in Iraq that provides contact-free fingerprint, facial recognition and iris detection capabilities. The system has been deployed to an undisclosed location as part of a joint urgent operational need and will be assessed for about 30 days to determine if it might be used elsewhere.
It is designed to control access to sensitive areas. Personnel with common access cards simply walk through the system as they would any checkpoint, and the technology reads their various biometric signatures and displays the data on a screen monitored by an operator.
Although one month may seem like a surprisingly short time to evaluate a system, William Graves, chief engineer for the Department of Defense biometrics project management office, says any problems will be spotted quickly. “I’ll know within the first three or four days if there is a problem with the way operators interact with the system,” he states.
Capabilities requested by warfighters as urgent operational needs are rapidly developed and procured, in part by cutting through much of the red tape associated with the traditional military acquisition process.
Researchers at the service’s newly created Biometrics Systems Integration Lab built the system by integrating two commercial products originally developed with Navy support. “The beauty of this is that we have a multimodal biometrics capability that allows you, if you miss one or even two biometrics but catch a third, to still validate that individual. This is a major advantage over current capabilities that are single modal,” says Alan Krzywicki, an electronics engineer with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center.
Contact-free biometrics collect data without interrupting the flow of traffic at checkpoints. “What you just witnessed is multifactor authentication using biometrics as well as high-throughput contactless, which is one of the next-generation capabilities we’re looking to push forward,” Krzywicki adds after a demonstration of the system for a gaggle of journalists.
The system can include other vital information, such as whether a person is on a watch list for terrorists or other criminals. An individual’s clearance level also will be displayed. “If I’m an operator, I can … notice that this individual has an interim secret clearance, but perhaps there is a full secret or top secret clearance required to access an area. I can easily pull him aside,” Krzywicki explains. “All of that is available in real time.”
Furthermore, the system will sound the alarm if anyone tries to enter a facility using a stolen access card. “If I happen to leave my card out, and some individual were to grab that and try to access a location, his biometrics are not registered to me. They are registered to him, so this guy is obviously not a good actor,” Krzywicki elaborates.
The lab personnel also plan to deploy to Iraq a voice recognition system and a rapid DNA identification capability.
The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center established the Biometrics Systems Integration Lab just four months ago in support of the project management office for Department of Defense biometrics. Within the next three or four months, the researchers will move to a larger facility with more capabilities, reports Col. Donald Hurst, USA, project manager for Department of Defense Biometrics.
The demand for biometrics intelligence, including foreign military sales, is increasing dramatically, the colonel indicates. “As part of that growing demand, the foreign military sales piece has really exploded, so I now have a product lead for international programs. That’s important for NATO and several countries we’re working with to get biometric collection and some sort of data repository capability,” Col. Hurst says.