FBI Touts Next Generation Fingerprint Technology

The FBI has laid out a timeline for upgrading their huge database of the fingerprints of criminals, terrorists and others.

The upgrade is designed to ease interoperability with the Department of Homeland Security fingerprint databases; add capacity for the storing and cataloging of other biometric data, like facial recognition, iris scans and DNA; and increase the number of queries the system is designed to handle every day from the current level of 62,500.

"We want to be able to plug and play with the new biometrics as they mature," Tom Bush, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Service, told Government Computer News.

The systems upgrade will cost in the range of "hundreds of millions of dollars" with a procurement process due to start in January, he said.

The upgrade will also involve a name change: the FBI plans to change the name of the system from the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS, to Next Generation Identification, or NGI.

IAFIS is currently the primary database used by federal, state and local agencies to check that an arrestee, job applicant or visa holder has not been convicted of a felony, and is not wanted for a crime.

One important improvement will be the introduction of a so-called "rap-back" capacity -- meaning the system can issue an alert when someone who was previously checked out, and found clean, subsequently enters the system because they were convicted of an offense.