Automated Fingerprinting Comes of Age
In Philadelphia, police officers no longer have to wait and wonder about the true identity of the person they've arrested. Using digital fingerprint systems, police can get an ID in just six minutes, so they can make speedy bookings and get back on the streets.
Philadelphia's Automated Fingerprint Identification System network, which links 75 police departments and the Pennsylvania State Police, came online in 1990. Now, law enforcement agencies at all levels of government across the nation are installing their own systems.
Automated fingerprint identification has been a goal of law enforcement officials for a long time. Over the past year or so, fingerprint scanning and identification technology has matured, bringing the speed and reliability the law enforcement community has always envisioned.
It could take anywhere from weeks to more than a year to process standard ink-and-roll 10-print cards. With automated fingerprint systems, many districts now receive IDs in a matter of hours or less. And the new systems, with their clear digital images and high-tech tools, generally avoid the errors that abound processing ink prints.
Of course, results vary from system to system, depending on the underlying technology. The Philadelphia system, based on NEC Technologies Inc.'s AFIS21 and live-scan units from Digital Biometrics Inc., also gives officers access to online booking reports and digitized mug shots in addition to a direct link to a state fingerprint database. The integrated system increases the speed of identification and means city officials can more easily process the 200 to 300 arrests made each day.
According to Harry Giordano, commanding officer of the records and identification unit of the Philadelphia Police Department, the scanning technology and the AFIS network have saved the department time in training and prisoner transport. Suspects used to be transported to central headquarters to be fingerprinted by technicians. Now, the live-scan units that collect fingerprints are easy to use, and fingerprinting is done remotely by officers.
Louisiana last month announced a similar integrated AFIS network, which provides police with access to fingerprints, mug shots and a computerized criminal history system. Implemented by Printrak International Inc., IBM Corp. and Unisys Corp., the network can retrieve all fingerprint data, including latent prints acquired at crime scenes, in 20 to 30 minutes. The system also links to the state's Office of Motor Vehicles and the sheriff's offices in all 64 Louisiana parishes.
Not all states and localities are so advanced, but fingerprint and related systems are springing up all over. In recent months, police departments in Tennessee, Minnesota and Florida have purchased fingerprint systems. The FBI recently brought online a national AFIS database, which may compel more state and local communities to install such systems.
Even some of the early adopters of live-scan technology have had to keep up with the technology curve. Last month, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department finished installing 147 new live-scan units from Digital Biometrics, enabling users to transmit prints electronically to central systems at the sheriff's department and the Los Angeles Police Department.
The county originally installed live-scan fingerprint units to improve the quality of the fingerprints they recorded. But they still printed out cards, which they had to scan into the state AFIS network, said Lt. Greg Morgon, who works in the department's Records and Identification Bureau. This process has evolved into a system that enables the department to send the electronic record directly to the state AFIS, eliminating the intermediate steps.
- Joshua Dean
Pennsylvania Takes Anti-Virus Medicine
Pennsylvania in July signed a deal with Network Associates Inc. to provide more than 40,000 users with a comprehensive anti-virus solution. The enterprise license agreement for NAI's Total Virus Defense suite builds on the state's existing reliance on NAI products and aims to cover its 40,000 desktops and 5,000 servers.
Two initiatives forced Pennsylvania to move to a fixed line of virus defense: a networkwide rollout of Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange e-mail product and the growing number of electronic government and e-commerce programs. State officials are concerned about the vulnerability of such projects to computer viruses that can wreak havoc on desktops systems, even if those systems have anti-virus software.
NAI has counted 43,000 known viruses, and more than 350 are created each month. "The first six months of 1999 saw more damage from viruses than in the entire history of viruses put together," said Sal Viveros, NAI's group marketing manager for Total Virus Defense. "The wake-up call was the 'Melissa' virus," which swept across networks earlier this year.
"More and more outside people have access to our network and our Web site," said Andrew Hartman, the manager of Pennsylvania's IT Education Division in the Office of Information Technology. "There is more and more risk involved. We're all tied together and needed to protect ourselves from outside attacks and hostile Web-based applications."
The Total Virus Defense suite was designed to cover all prospective enterprise entry points of an organization's network. Its primary components include VirusScan for the desktop, NetShield for the server, GroupShield for the groupware server and WebShield for the Internet gateway. The suite also includes management tools and virus updates.
Pennsylvania has installed WebShield, and by June 2000, the state to plans have VirusScan and NetShield deployed to 30,000 nodes. June 2001 will see the state's 15,000 remaining nodes covered. As the state's Exchange network stabilizes, it will consider GroupShield for its groupware defense.
Two Vendors Offer to Keep Out the Smut
The World Wide Web, by some estimates, hosts more than 30,000 million pages of pornographic material. With the government's E-Rate funding program making Internet access affordable to many more schools, teachers are grappling with how to keep that material out of the classroom.
Two companies, Technologic Inc. and Elron Software Inc., are offering schools Internet "filtering" products that can be used to ensure that schoolchildren cannot reach those sites from classroom computers.
Technologic's InstaGate is an all-in-one firewall, e-mail and Web server that features URL filtering, making it possible to block out specific Web addresses.
Customers can subscribe to a database of banned Uniform Resource Locators, or they can make their own lists of censored sites. Almost 500,000 URLs have been categorized as banned, according to David Aylesworth, a product manager with Technologic.
Technologic developed InstaGate as an Internet appliance that, fully loaded with all the necessary software, users can hook up to their networks as a server.
"By doing Web filtering in gateway like this, you eliminate the cost of putting software on every desktop," Aylesworth said. "We are doing filtering at the gateway, where all the traffic is funneled through."
Elron's CommandView Internet Manager 5, on the other hand, is designed to screen out unwanted sites, even if those Web addresses do not appear on a list.
Internet Manager investigates the description and text on every Web page. Internet Manager then checks content against lists of banned words.
"We're helping organizations solve issues related to Internet connectivity," said Kelly Haggerty, a product marketing manager at Elron. "Organizations want to be sure that access is being used properly." Haggerty estimates that nearly 50 percent of Internet Manager's users are schools.
- Joshua Dean
Big Orders From Small Vendor Pools
In Arizona, it was the daunting task of inventorying a mixed bag of 30,000 PCs that pushed officials to tap six vendors to set up a one-stop shop for agency desktops. In Kentucky, it was bloated prices and stagnant procurement practices that led a contracting office to narrow to 15 the number of approved vendors state agencies will use to purchase equipment and IT services.
Although the two buys are quite different, they are based on the same practical philosophy: Maximize the volume and minimize the contractors in the equation to get the best deal possible.
Both procurements also represent a twist on the concept of state master contracts because they define a pool of eligible bidders but do not require price lists for products and services. The megadeals also are mandatory, unlike many other state contracts, forcing agencies to secure a waiver to buy products from outside vendors.
Arizona's Asset Management Program (AMP) to some extent stems from the Government Information Technology Agency's (www.gita.state.az.us) frustration with discovering, during an inventory project, how disparate a collection of systems Arizona's agencies had acquired.
About 70 percent of the state's PCs were more than 3 years old, said chief information officer John Kelly. "We had no way to determine how they were configured," he said. "Also, there was not enough information to determine in cases where agencies were going to be conducting a new project whether the PC infrastructure would be capable of running the software they were going to buy."
GITA, however, managed to turn that frustration into a winning buying strategy. "What we are trying to do is to consolidate demand so that the state can aggregate and use its market power to get better prices and other services related to the products on the contract," Kelly said.
AMP was awarded in late May but got its start several years back. The program designates six vendors-two manufacturers and four resellers-that state agencies must use when purchasing PCs. Included on the contract are Comp-USA, Ikon Office Solutions, Inacom Information Systems, CLH International Inc., Microage Government Accounts and Transource Computers.
Unlike a schedules arrangement, AMP does not involve a catalog-like ordering system with specified pricing for each item. However, the six vendors have agreed to a pricing formula that guarantees prices will not exceed a certain percentage over cost. (For more about AMP, visit gita.state.az.us/Planning/amp/index.htm.)
Kentucky's Strategic Alliance Service (SAS) contract also is akin to a set of state master contracts, although the deal likewise contains no prenegotiated prices. But unlike Arizona's AMP, Kentucky's new buying vehicle offers a large range of IT services.
In putting together SAS, Kentucky made a fundamental shift in procurement by focusing on end results rather than detailed work specifications, said state CIO Aldona Valicenti. "We want to deal in outcomes-stated as business outcomes. Our business statements will describe where we are and where we want to go, and we will ask vendors to help us find the best way to get there."
Grown out of the state's 3-year-old Empower Kentucky initiative, SAS includes such "full-service" vendors as Unisys Corp.,
Deloitte & Touche LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers, TRW Inc. and American Management Systems Inc. Ten more specialized contractors are part of the deal, including experts in data warehousing and geographic information systems.
The arrangement also is attractive to vendors, said Doug Kennedy, Unisys Information Systems Group's regional manager for the public sector. "What Kentucky's Strategic Alliance Services contracts offer is a true partnership between state and vendor," he said.
- Jennifer Jones
Beach Town Automates Parking Ticket System
The town of Hilton Head Island, S.C., in late July completed the installation of computerized parking ticket machines and a records management system by Clancy Systems International Inc.
Hilton Head Island's new ticket system relies on handheld units to make it possible to print and log parking tickets in the field, simplifying the job of ticketers and cutting down on much of the administrative overhead typically associated with issuing and tracking tickets.
Previously, ticketers hand-wrote tickets and entered data manually into an in-house-written program, a process that had become increasingly cumbersome. "The old system just couldn't keep up with the volume over the years," said Tammy Malone, assistant facilities manager for Hilton Head Island's Facilities Management Department.
Beachgoers who flock to Hilton Head Island are required to have a $15 beach pass and park at certain public beaches. Those who do not have a pass or who park in the wrong areas are ticketed.
The system also is set up to collect delinquent tickets. Each day the system transfers to the portable ticket machines the license plate numbers of car owners who have outstanding tickets. The system provides ticketers with a "hot list" of people who have more than $50 worth of delinquent tickets, and their cars are booted or towed when found. Prior to the installation of the Clancy system, the town could not search through all the data on the spot to identify delinquents, Malone said.
At the end of the day, issued tickets are downloaded from the units into a Microsoft Corp. BackOffice-powered management system. The ticket management system can interface with the state's motor vehicles department, which then can send out notices to those with delinquent tickets. Hilton Head has not yet taken that step, but it nevertheless is seeing the benefits of its new system.
"It's already starting to cut down the time we spend on the administrative side of things," Malone said. "It used to take one to two days to manually enter the tickets from a weekend. Now we just plug the units in and everything happens automatically."
Clancy Version 7.0 runs on Microsoft's Windows 95/98 and Windows NT. The company has more than 100 automated ticketing installations in the United States.
- Joshua Dean