Editorial: Beyond the fingerprint

Glance at the cover and the table of contents in this issue and a recurring theme will jump out at you: fingerprints. Latent-print examination has been around for a long time, but changing trends and technology have kept this discipline in the headlines.

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In particular, two articles in this issue dovetail nicely: One focuses on the new Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) system, part of the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) system (Page 12); and the other (Page 18) looks at continuing efforts to establish interoperability for automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS).

Look deeper into these articles and you will find another underlying story—one that reveals we are not talking only about fingerprints anymore. Now, when we talk about automated searches and databases, other biometrics are right there alongside the fingerprints.

Just as important as prints from the fingers are prints from the other friction-ridge skin, such as palmprints, and even footprints. In fact, in the near future, the “F” in AFIS may soon be understood to stand for “friction ridge” instead of “fingerprint”.

This is a particularly appropriate notion considering the forthcoming official release of the 2011 version of the ANSI/NIST-ITL Biometric Data Interchange Standard. This document defines standards for the collection and transmission of biometric data. The updated standard includes the Extended Feature Set (EFS), a set of fields used by examiners to mark up images of latent prints. New to the standard—in addition to palm prints and fingerprints—is the inclusion of footprints.

The new ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011 standard (as it is formally known) also includes updated information on the use of other biometric data, such as facial, other body part, and SMT (scars, marks, and tattoos) images; as well as DNA and iris data.

To date, automated searches for latent fingerprints and DNA have dominated crime-scene investigation. But programs such as NGI are progressing quickly, enabling additional functionality in multi-modal biometrics. Technology has already taken us beyond the fingerprint—and additional headlines and success stories are just around the corner.

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Evidence Technology Magazine

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