The next time you are pulled over by police you may encounter a familiar face: your iPhone. Faster than you can say “Book ’em, Dano,” Apple’s handset is quickly becoming law enforcement’s favorite tool for identifying unknown fingerprints. The iPhone’s touchscreen will even be enlisted by the FBI to spot terrorism suspects.
Time counts when you’re trying to identify and find a perp, so using an iPhone could significantly shorten the time police officers need to wait while fingerprints are run through a national database, says Ken Nosker, president of Fulcrum Technologies. Fulcrum’s mobileOne device is just one product using the iPhone to create biometric devices for law enforcement.
The chief benefits of using an iPhone fingerprint device are saving time and money. If an officer must take a suspect in for fingerprints, the delay could be hours, and although there are mobile fingerprinting units, their high price means more delays as police search for the one or two they can afford. On the other hand, many police officers already have iPhones, and the cost of the mobileOne device is within reach of even the smallest police departments.
The FbF mobileOne device slips over an off-the-shelf iPhone or iPod touch, which can be easily slipped into a pocket. The device then can take high-quality fingerprints that even pass the rigorous requirements of the FBI. Because of the iPhone’s Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity, fingerprints obtained can be quickly compared to those in national databases, including the FBI’s recently introduced Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC) database.
In 2012, the iPhone will be among devices that undergo trials by the FBI. Already FBI-certified, the FbF mobileOne iPhone fingerprint product could be available to all U.S. law enforcement looking for serious criminals.
At a recent International Chiefs of Police conference in Chicago, Fulcrum representatives were mobbed by local law enforcement officials asking when the FbF mobileOne iPhone device would become available in their area. The holdup is getting the device approved by state IT departments. Nosker said the steps required to get iPhone fingerprinting approved are “pretty significant.”
But why not Android? For biometrics — which can include fingerprints, facial analysis – even voiceprints — “Apple provides the most stable platform, bar none,” Nosker said. He dismissed the vast array of Android handsets, complaining that 30 or 40 Android smartphones had 30 or 40 different ways to interface with his fingerprint device. In other words, Google’s OS can forget about being deputized, and Android will never be a RoboCop.
The FbF mobileOne device is expected to cost $600, much less than another iPhone fingerprint option known as MORIS.
MORIS stands for “Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System.” Along with fingerprints, MORIS offers law enforcement officials facial and iris recognition. An officer snaps a photo of a suspect and the iPhone compares 130 facial landmarks, including the distance between the eye and nose. The same high-resolution photo is used to compare more than 200 features of the human iris. Both facial recognition systems use the iPhone to tie into national databases, cutting delays by a factor of ten, according to the system’s maker, BI2 Technologies.
The system, which attaches to an iPhone and weighs 12.5 ounces, is already paying off for Florida law enforcement. Since 2004, deputies in the Pinellas County, Fla. sheriff’s office have nabbed 700 people. In Brockton, Mass., the MORIS iris scans quickly link suspects’ prior criminal history.
Forget guns, or CB radios, or even in-car computer systems. In the next year, the iPhone could become the most important crime-fighting tool a cop has at his disposal. Just as the iPhone has reshaped what we expect from smartphones, it’s now set to overhaul law enforcement. Criminals beware!