Magazine article National Defense

Navy Seeks to Miniaturize Biometric Gear

Magazine article National Defense

Navy Seeks to Miniaturize Biometric Gear

Article excerpt

* The Navy plans to issue biometric-capable handheld computers that can help sailors quickly identify a terrorist suspect when they are searching enemy ships.

Some biometric systems already exist in the fleet but the Navy wants to scale down the devices so they can be carried more easily by sailors.

By 2011, the Navy plans to deploy a pocket-sized "identity dominant system." Since 2005, the service's "visit, board, search and seizure" teams have used biometric collection kits manufactured by Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based Cross Match Technologies. The kits, housed in a large Pelican case, include a laptop, a document scanner, a fingerprint scanner and a special camera that uses facial recognition technology to photograph persons-of-interest for matching.

"When our team goes over, it can collect biometrics and verify if the people they are collecting the biometrics on are in the database," said James Hamblet, branch head for force protection of maritime interdiction and warfare systems in the Navy's surface warfare directorate.

The current kits, which can weigh 20 pounds or more, are cumbersome, sailors have complained.

"These are very capable kits, but what the Navy would like to do now is try to make them more expeditionary and to expand the capability," to include iris scanning, which is currently not available with the Cross Match system, said Hamblet.

The addition of the iris scanning feature in the scaled-down device would be on par with the biometrics "automated toolset" that is currently deployed in Iraq, Hamblet said. That system, which also collects fingerprints and photographs for facial recognition, was initially deployed to the battlefield to compile a database of prisoners. Marines have also expanded its use as part of a campaign to issue localized identification cards to verify residency in Western Iraq.

The identity dominant system will take the Navy's currently deployed biometrics technology a step further. "What we're driving towards is combining all that functionality in a single five-pound device," he said. "What we're ideally working towards is a small system that can fit in the cargo pocket of one of the sailors who is on the [visit, board, search and seizure] team." It will have to be hardy, and stand up to the rigors of a demanding sea operational environment. "You've got to make a system that can be dropped three feet onto a steel deck and still work," as well as get wet, operate in the intense heat of the Persian Gulf while having sufficient battery life, he added. …

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