Why is AFIS Interoperability Important?
Automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS) allow latent print examiners to search fingerprint files and to transmit fingerprint images. However, examiners often lack the technological ability to access AFIS in neighboring jurisdictions. In addition, before submitting a print for an AFIS search, examiners must manually encode the print's features in a way that the system can understand. Unfortunately, this notation method is often different for various databases, requiring the examiner to re-encode each print before searching each AFIS, losing valuable time. This lack of latent print search interoperability and the subsequent missed opportunities to make identifications have been long recognized as serious issues within the examiner community.
Since the introduction of AFIS in the 1980s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) in the late 1990s, some criminal justice agencies have had the ability to search latent prints not only against their own fingerprint database but also against a hierarchy of local, state, and federal databases. This hierarchical search is referred to as a vertical search process. However, the ability to search a neighboring city, county, or state database (i.e., a horizontal or peer-to-peer search) is nearly non-existent. These types of searches are both time-consuming and technically challenging due to the variety of vendors, communications links, and other issues.
Current and Future AFIS Interoperability (image adapted from Mayo, Kristi, "AFIS Interoperability," Evidence Technology Magazine, Vol. 6, no. 1, January – February 2008.)
The lack of AFIS interoperability is specifically addressed in the 2009 National Research Council's report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward. Recommendation 12 of the report identifies the need "to launch a new broad-based effort to achieve nationwide fingerprint data interoperability" with a "task force comprising relevant experts from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the major law enforcement agencies (including representatives from the local state, and federal, and, perhaps, international levels) and industry..."
The Latent Print AFIS Interoperability Working Group
As part of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ)/NIST effort to address the lack of AFIS interoperability, OLES convened the Latent Print AFIS Interoperability Working Group in April 2008. The release in February 2009 of the National Research Council's report gave further support to the issue at a national level. The mission of this Working Group is to improve latent print AFIS interoperability by developing a clear understanding of the issues and challenges at hand and to identify collaborative ways to actively address this national problem.
To this end, the Working Group is producing writing guides and other documents to meet the needs of latent print examiners, AFIS users, managers, vendors, and policy makers to establish interagency latent AFIS interoperability. The objectives of the Working Group in the preparation of these documents are to:
- Define the issues and challenges to latent print AFIS interoperability;
- Identify opportunities to actively address latent print interoperability; and
- Develop guidelines to provide guidance on technical and administrative issues.
Currently, the Latent Print AFIS Interoperability Working Group is developing a high-level strategic plan for federal and state policymakers to implement AFIS interoperability between levels of government and among systems on the same level. The document will also examine the advances that have been made to promote latent print interoperability, describe trends and issues, and offer potential solutions for consideration by the policymakers.
In addition, the Working Group is supporting the development and use of the Extended Feature Set (EFS), a standard method for encoding fingerprint features that can be understood by any AFIS. EFS has been incorporated into the ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011 standard, NIST Special Publication 500-290 Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial, & Other Biometric Information.
The following images and documents have been created by the Latent Print AFIS Interoperability Working Group to fulfill its mission.
• Continuum of Interoperability (.jpg)
• Current and Future State of Interoperability (.jpg)
• Enter Once, Search Many Logo (.jpg)
• Latent Print AFIS Interoperability Puzzle (.jpg)
• NEW! Extended Feature Set Profile Specification
This specification defines Extended Feature Set (EFS) Profiles - sets of features to be used in latent friction ridge (fingerprint, palmprint or plantar) searches of automated friction ridge identification systems (AFIS). The EFS Profiles are designed to be interoperable among AFIS systems from different vendors and to enable cross-jurisdictional searches that would not otherwise be practical. Multiple EFS Profiles are defined to allow for tradeoffs between examiner time and search accuracy. EFS Profiles also may be used simply to document latent friction ridge features, such as for potential use in legal proceedings or exchange between latent examiners, and need not be for AFIS matching purposes.
• NEW! Markup Instructions for Extended Friction Ridge Features
This document provides instructions for latent print examiners in marking friction ridge features to maximize consistency among examiners. This document builds upon the Extended Feature Set (EFS) defined in American National Standards Institute/National Institute of Standards & Technology, Information Technology Laboratory (ANSI/NIST-ITL) standard entitled "American National Standard for Information Systems: Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information" (ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011). These instructions include examples and specific guidance for latent print examiners and minimize references to technical details of the file format.
• NEW! Latent Interoperability Transmission Specification
The Latent Interoperability Transmission Specification (LITS) is an application profile of the American National Standards Institute/National Institute of Standards & Technology, Information Technology Laboratory (ANSI/NIST-ITL) standard entitled "American National Standard for Information Systems: Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information" (ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2011). LITS is a system-level specification, parallel to and compatible with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Justice Information Services Electronic Biometric cross-jurisdictional automated friction ridge identification systems (AFIS).
• DRAFT Glossary of AFIS Terms (PDF)
• NEW! Writing Guidelines for Requests for Proposals for Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems
This is one of a series of documents prepared by the Latent Print Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) Interoperability Working Group. The purpose of these documents is to provide guidance and a framework to those involved in the identification process who may be tasked to be a project leader or member of a working group for an AFIS purchase, replacement, upgrade, or move to a more biometrics-based identification process. This document incorporates input from AFIS practitioners, examiners, users, and vendors. It is intended to provide agencies with an overall guide to critical conditions and decisions, allowing agencies the best opportunity to have a clear and succinct Request for Proposals (RFP), detailed responses for evaluation, and the implementation of the new AFIS with a minimum amount of frustration and delay.
• NEW! Writing Guidelines to Develop a Memorandum of Understanding for Interoperable Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems
This is one of a series of documents prepared by the Latent Print Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) Interoperability Working Group. The purpose of these documents is to provide guidance and a framework to those involved in the identification process who may be tasked to be a project leader or member of a working group for an AFIS purchase, replacement, upgrade, or move to a more biometrics-based identification process. This document is intended to be used as a guide to developing a latent AFIS interoperability memorandum of understanding (MOU) between two or more agencies. The document is laid out in a common MOU format and includes suggested headings for each section. Within each section are established questions that can be considered during the development of the MOU. In the format and headings, this document incorporates the key elements of interoperability.
Other Related Resources
• FBI's Biometric Specifications (BioSpecs)
• FBI's Latent Hit of the Year Award
Contact: Melissa Taylor, 301-975-6363