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June 21, 2012 · The field of biometrics—the identification of people by their characteristics or traits—is a growing industry in north Central West Virginia. A conference in Fairmont discussed the newest technologies in this growing area of study.
For several years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has operated facilities in Harrison County that work in biometrics, including fingerprint identification.
At West Virginia University, there is a Center for Identification Technology Research.
The “Next Step in Identity Technologies: Biometrics and Beyond” conference brought together interested parties to discuss the future of biometrics in the region.
Dave Cuthbertson is the assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Sciences Division, and was a conference speaker.
“West Virginia provides a tremendous place for all the people in the CJIS division, and we’re over 2,600 strong, to provide our nation’s criminal justice information sharing capabilities,” he said.
“Not only do we do biometrics, we do biographic base systems such as the National Crime Information Center, and we also do the gun background checks. We have a multi-faceted mission here in West Virginia.”
The FBI maintains a great deal of data on identifying people through fingerprints and eyes but Cuthbertson says other data-like palm prints-are not as well catalogued.
“There has never been a nationwide searching capability for palm prints. We find at crime scenes, approximately 30 percent of the latent fingerprints or crime scene marks that are left are actually palm prints, so before a crime scene analyst would retrieve a palm print, but have no way to search that nationally,” Cuthbertson said.
“About 25 states have palm print systems, but now we will have a national system to put all those palm prints together and be able to search nationally.”
Another speaker was Colonel Douglas Flohr who is deputy director of operations for the Defense Department’s Biometrics Identity Management Agency.
Col.Flohr says the demand for biometrics, particularly the study of identification data, is increasing, even though the war in Afghanistan is ending.
“We thought as Iraq stood down and American troops departed, we would see less work in biometrics, but we saw exactly the opposite, we didn’t have a peace dividend,” Col. Flohr said.
“As Afghanistan draws down, we are seeing more and more work. We’ve got a lot of work ongoing with former Soviet Republics, Armenia, Serbia, Croatia, because everybody wants to identify who is in their country, and the U.S. has a great capability to do that.”
Flohr says in order to protect national security; advancements in biometrics must continuously expand. His agency has the task of making important decisions on how to best allocate resources, especially when facing budget cuts.
“Defense is not just soldiers, defense is also education, and what I need to do is ensure that we are investing in long-term solutions, and that if we’ve got an issue, that isn’t performing, then it’s my job to step in, and make sure that we are getting our biggest bang for our buck,” he said.
The economic development organization TechConnect West Virginia, along with the companies Computer Sciences Corporation and Innovative Management and Technology Approaches Incorporated hosted the event.
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