Six huge take-aways from the Federal Identity Forum in Washington, DC

People who know me will tell you that I’m an enthusiastic and optimistic person. It’s hard to get me down. If you see me at an industry event or tradeshow, I’m usually pumped up about something.

But even for me, this year’s Federal Identity Forum & Exposition (FedID 17), held September 12-14 in Washington, D.C., genuinely got me more excited for our industry than I’ve been in several years.

Formerly known as the Biometric Consortium Conference (BCC) and the Global Identity Summit (GIS) , the newly branded FedID is the U.S. federal government’s primary outreach and collaboration-building event with the worldwide identity community. The event has evolved over the years through a post-9/11 biometric boom to a slowdown in deployments, and now to a time when our industry is once again seeing a greater push toward mass adoption of identity matching technology.

NEC showcased its world-class biometrics solutions for multiple federal audiences and departments. We spanned a wide range of biometric technology, including fingerprint, face recognition, video surveillance and analysis, multimodal biometric enrollment, mobile fingerprint and forensic analysis. Where biometric identification is concerned, we had something for everyone.

This brings me to a list of favorites I’m calling the “six huge take-aways from FedID 17.” Here we go.

  1. Face is the Future – Nearly everyone who came to our booth wanted to see NeoFace Express, which is our rapid-access face recognition system. Express is currently being tested at major airports by U.S. Customers and Border Protection for the Department of Homeland Security’s Biometric Exit pilot program. Biometric Exit is the federal government’s way of tracking outgoing international travelers so that U.S. officials can get a better picture of how many non-Americans are overstaying their travel visas.Conversations I had with people who saw the demo agreed that face recognition, when executed with a high degree of accuracy and precision, is the security technology of the immediate future. It’s fast and frictionless, it’s accurate, and it can help increase efficiency in airports where we all agree that faster queuing times are a good thing. That makes me excited.

  2. Apple’s Face ID is a Victory for the Identity Industry – Apple’s big fall product launch event coincided with the first day of FedID 17, and as I said in my panel talk that same day, I think the Apple iPhone X Face ID feature is going to be great for our industry. Assuming the technology typically works as well as it did the second time Apple’s Phil Schiller attempted to demo the feature, and I assume it will, people will ultimately adopt face recognition as a lawful and acceptable security form. As my friend Peter O’Neill at FindBiometrics pointed out, our industry saw a huge push in fingerprint ID acceptance when the Touch ID scanner was introduced on the iPhone 5S. Expect iPhone X to do the same for face.

  3. Robust Testing is Critical – In most of the conversations I had about face recognition at FedID, there typically came a time when someone said of face recognition, “Yes, I agree, but it’s got to work.” It seems like an obvious statement, but those of us in the industry can all agree that achieving a high degree of accuracy and performance for a face recognition algorithm takes a lot of hard work, investment, and patience. Federal officials require that any technology they use for biometric identity is accurate and responsive enough to return a match in less than 2 seconds, often times milliseconds. Lucky for NEC, our NeoFace algorithm is the consistent top performer in performance testing by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

  4. Humans Are Important – Perhaps this is another obvious statement, but there are actually two ways that human intervention is absolutely integral to the success of any identity matching technology. After all, we are talking about protecting people’s personal freedoms at multiple levels here.For starters, face recognition and today’s more advanced identity matching algorithms are actually a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and they must be taught how to identify people in a wide array of conditions. That means we (the humans) have to teach it (the technology) about adverse lighting conditions, a wide diversity in facial features, shades, anomalies and shapes, odd capture angles, and many other factors, in order to achieve a higher degree of matching accuracy. We know this from more than 40 years of experience in developing identity matching technology.

    Secondly, any biometric technology, whether it’s fingerprint, iris or face recognition, will never be 100 percent accurate all of the time. Having a living, breathing, well-trained human being present to handle exceptions and errors in any automated identity matching process is critical to the long-term success of biometric technology. Just as fingerprinting has been around for more than 100 years in law enforcement, responsible and ethical use by humans will be key for biometric identity matching to be around for the next 100.

  5. Federal Officials are Moving Ahead – Obviously the world is not yet fully on-board with using biometric identity matching at every major checkpoint or public event, but it’s clear to me that the federal government is headed toward mass adoption at multiple levels. From the CBP Biometric Exit pilots to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s use of handheld fingerprint scanners and beyond, we haven’t seen the last of biometrics being deployed in our daily lives.

  6. Privacy is Important – It’s hard to talk about identity without addressing privacy in the same breath, and that was certainly the case in most of my conversations at FedID. People generally have concerns about privacy, specifically how long the government can retain biometric data for U.S. citizens and who will have access to your biometric data. Those conversations are playing out at the federal policy level as we speak. Every indication I’m seeing is that the policy discussions will not change the fact that face recognition is an extremely secure and convenient way to verify a person’s identity. Every face is different, and with the latest advances it has become very hard to fool the technology. No security or authentication technology is 100-percent perfect, but with great technology and the hard work of diligent humans, our face recognition comes pretty darn close.

It’s an exciting time to be in our industry. I look forward to continuing the healthy dialog and debate as we get closer to mass adoption within the federal government.

 

NEC Corporation of America

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Left of Boom – Defeating the Threat Among Us

It’s no secret the world has become a much more dangerous and complicated place in the 21st century. Terrorism itself has evolved, and so has the way our federal government is combatting and defending against it.

What has become clear is that violent extremist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda have evolved to become influencers and master manipulators online and abroad. They’re not as focused on becoming an army of covert foot soldiers attempting to penetrate U.S. borders. The result of this is the evolution of the lone wolf attacker, a typically misguided and desperate soul who loses touch with reality and is somehow convinced or brainwashed into inflicting maximum damage through violence. We’ve seen this play out recently in the United Kingdom.

Since 2001, the United States has suffered over 40 lone-wolf terror attacks perpetrated by a diverse array of personality types. Although there is no single, universally accepted definition of a lone-wolf terror attack, academics generally define a lone wolf as a single attacker who plans and commits violent acts alone, outside of any command structure and without material assistance from any group.

The perpetrators of these terrible atrocities may be influenced by extreme political ideologies claiming religious motivations, or they may be disgruntled or mentally ill. In many cases, a combination of these factors are at play. The point is, profiles for these lone-wolf terrorists are consistently challenging to identify, which therefore makes prevention of individual attacks particularly difficult. The threat, needless to say, is even greater with those in positions of trust. Airport or airline employees and contractors with access to military installations with secure credentials are examples of individuals who are sometimes susceptible to these downfalls.

Since 2001, the U.S. has suffered over 40 lone-wolf terror attacks. #homelandsecurity Click To Tweet

Where lone wolves or any violent threats are concerned, the goal is to stay “left of boom.” Popularized in military circles during the months and years after 9/11, the phrase “left of boom” refers to the moments before an explosion or attack – a period when you still have time to prepare and avert a crisis. Right of boom, by contrast, includes the chaotic and deadly moments after the explosion or attack.

Law enforcement, public safety, and military officials associated with the people who perpetrate these terrorist acts. Research suggests early detection through preventative measures like situational awareness, monitoring Internet and social channels, and if needed, psychological screenings and interventions, are the best approaches to thwarting lone wolf attacks.

Individuals who carry out these attacks do follow a similar path from ideological influence to radicalization to violence. This path begins with a grievance that leads to moral outrage and anger projection, which leads to some sort of trigger point or justification for violence. At this point in the process, most people do not act.

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However, for the few who do act, either alone or in a group, the perpetrators tend to wade into an ideological end-state culminating in a terror attack. The fact that a process exists provides officials with some map to begin gathering information that might lead to prediction and prevention. Our public servants want to get left of boom in order to disrupt the chain of events that could lead to an attack.

At NEC, we’re passionate about the safety and security of all citizens. We are committed to providing solutions that assist our clients in identifying people, patterns, and predictions. For over 40 years, NEC Corporation has provided screening and background check information for purposes of law enforcement and applicant background checks. Our systems have cast the widest nets in identifying these individuals from searching local, state, FBI, DHS, Interpol and other biographic and biometrics databases.

NEC adheres to FBI, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and other industry standards for data exchange, as demonstrated by our customer install base. These deployments could allow law enforcement agencies to receive immediate notification of fault. Other random and frictionless screening with use of facial recognition may provide clues on relationships, associates and more. Such existing services can be augmented with publicly available biographic data including travel and purchase patterns to form the foundation of a collective dataset that would assist in analysis and identification of suspicious patterns leading to a prediction.

If we can look at an individual’s identity, patterns of life, and associations – among other data points – we can help our clients get closer to predicting and preventing lone-wolf attacks. We pride ourselves on being passionate problem solvers with an eye toward cutting-edge solutions that deliver precise and trusted results. If you’d like to hear more about our solutions and how we are solving the challenge of the threat among us, please contact us today.

People. Patterns. Predictions.
NEC Corporation of America’s Advanced Recognition Systems team is committed to developing and delivering public safety solutions that keep people safe.

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NEC SmartScan Propels Livescans Forward at IAI’s International Education Conference

In the world of biometrics and identity management, livescan technology is nothing new. First introduced in the early 1990s, the earliest livescans were used by law enforcement to electronically capture fingerprint and, later in the 2000s, palm print images. The primary uses case was for criminal bookings and for searching against the state and FBI’s criminal fingerprint database.

Fast-forward some 20 years, and, while there have been some advancements in the technology through the years, the software and user interface hasn’t changed all that much. NEC thinks now is the time for a renaissance in livescan technology.

This week at the International Association for Identification’s 101st International Education Conference in Cincinnati, NEC launched the next generation in livescan technology, called NEC SmartScan. You can read the details in our press release, but suffice it to say that SmartScan is designed to significantly enhance what had become an obsolete technology with an outdated user interface.

Why start a renaissance in livescan now?

For starters, rapid rotation of correctional officers leads to a constant need for training and a battle against poor quality finger and palm prints. We now have the ability to significantly enhance the user experience using the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system. This allows us to leverage a more personalized look and ability for swipe, scroll, pinch and zoom and give the system a much more modern look and feel, leading to accelerated training and improved image quality capture.

Secondly, LiveScan reliability and service has been poor. Our remote managed services, coupled with the industry’s most talented and dedicated support personnel available 24×7, leads to higher uptime, better customer satisfaction and guaranteed service level agreement (SLA) performance. The bottom line is keeping this technology online and running smoothly is a major priority in today’s world.

Thirdly, the individual components of livescan have gotten faster, better and more secure. For example, NEC’s own NeoFace facial recognition technology, recognized by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as the world’s most accurate, will be used for operator logon and as a means to avoid duplicate data entry. Let’s leverage that in a world-class livescan!

NEC SmartScan

And finally, thanks to the introduction of various state and federal programs, the identity and biometrics industry has a host of new and exciting use cases for livescan technology. It’s not just state and local law enforcement that can use livescan these days. From state public safety departments to TSA Pre® to FBI background checks to the Department of Veteran Affairs enrollment, government agencies and departments are finding new uses for livescan. NEC plans to be there every step of the way.

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IAI International Education Conference

The IAI International Education Conference, held in August each year, offers a 5-day schedule loaded with educational presentations for forensic investigators and experts from across the country. Likewise, the IAI has an impressive exposition with more than 125 booths featuring the latest products and technologies for law enforcement.

This year in Cincinnati, NEC (booth 301) is demonstrating the new SmartScan product both in kiosk and desktop form factors. We’re also holding live demos in our booth’s presentation theater, where we’ll also be giving away T-Shirts and chocolate bars, so if you are there, please come by.

Live NEC SmartScan Demos (IAI Booth 301)
Tuesday, August 9 10:30 a.m.
Tuesday, August 9 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, August 9 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 10 10:30 a.m.
Wednesday, August 10 1:30 p.m.

NEC is always excited to be a part of this conference. As in previous years, we are a Diamond sponsor and the lead sponsor for the Opening Ceremony, breakfast and keynote. This year, we’re very lucky to have as our keynote speaker the Justice Network’s Dayle Hinman, host of “Body of Evidence: From the Case Files of Dayle Hinman.”

Additionally, yours truly (John Dowden) will participate in an expert panel at 8 a.m. Thursday, August 11, titled “Expanding the IAI to Focus on Digital Evidence.” I’m proud to be part of this panel and a technology company helping to shape the future of digital evidence collection.

Feel free to follow @NEC and @The_IAI on Twitter during the show, or you can also check out the hashtag #IAI2016.

 

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