Better, faster...and interoperable.

CAPITALISM IS A WONDERFUL THING. Free enterprise encourages the development of new products and technology. One group’s innovation only drives the imagination and ingenuity of another group, each working to build a better, faster, easier, more powerful solution to a common problem.

When you come right down to it, the focus of this issue’s main feature story and interview—the interoperability of automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS)—can all be traced back to the foundation of capitalism.

Back in the 1970s, emerging AFIS technology promised to make the process of matching fingerprints exponentially simpler for fingerprint examiners. A paradigm shift occurred in the field of latent-fingerprint comparison, and simultaneously an entirely new market emerged. Technology companies set out to build better AFIS systems. Niches were even formed within a seemingly vertical market, such as AFIS technology that was designed specifically for the largest federal agency or the smallest police department.

Suddenly, an agency that wanted to integrate an AFIS system into its identification section actually found it necessary to do some serious homework and then go shopping, because so many vendors were offering their own forms of state-of-the-art technology. And with so many agencies making the same tough buying decisions, it was inevitable that many of them would choose different routes. Today, identification sections that are located in adjacent counties may run AFIS systems made by different manufacturers. One local agency might have a different version of an AFIS system than its state agency.

In this way, the issue of AFIS interoperability came into existence—and it is an issue that arose almost as quickly as the technology itself.

AFIS technology just keeps getting better, faster, easier, and more powerful. That’s how free enterprise works. And it needs to stay that way.

At the same time, the latent-print community needs to be able to share the information in their fingerprint and palmprint databases and work together to catch criminals. AFIS interoperability seems to be the most direct route to achieving this level of cooperation. While researching this issue of the magazine, AFIS experts—vendors and practitioners alike—assured me that they want to work together toward a common goal. It looks like the community is ready to sit down and make AFIS interoperability happen, and that is exciting. I know the members of the latent-print community will be watching, too, and ready and willing to ask questions, share their experiences, and express their needs.

Gathering that kind of input and then acting on it, after all, is really what free enterprise is all about.

—Kristi Mayo, editor
Evidence Technology Magazine

January-February 2008 (Volume 6, Number 1)
Evidence Technology Magazine
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