Printrak expands marketing reach

Printrak International Inc., the leading supplier of automatic fingerprint identification systems (AFIS), is broadening its marketing reach to include non-law enforcement government agencies and the commercial sector.

Printrak has built almost its entire business on providing AFIS technology to law enforcement agencies, which have purchased Printrak's line of fingerprint search and matching systems to identify suspects in crimes.

But Printrak officials believe federal and state government agencies involved in managing social services, such as welfare and health benefits, and immigration control will increasingly turn to AFIS solutions to reduce fraud that is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

"The highest growth rate [in the AFIS industry] will be outside of law enforcement," said Steve Yeich, director of business development at Printrak. "Sooner or later, these non-law enforcement applications will happen."

Los Angeles County's welfare services agency already is using Printrak systems under a contract awarded to Electronic Data Systems Corp. to catalog the fingerprints of welfare beneficiaries. The fingerprints of applicants applying for welfare are checked against a database of existing beneficiaries to determine if an individual is already receiving welfare benefits. The system, according to a recent study, saved the county $80 million over three years, easily covering the $20 million cost of the system.

New Market Ahead

Peter Higgins, president of Higgins & Associates International, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm specializing in automated biometrics technology, said Printrak's broadening of its market is related to its initial public offering this summer and will probably pay off.

"This allows them to go into a new market," said Higgins, former deputy assistant for engineering at the FBI. "The Railroad Retirement Board just finished fingerprinting its retirees, so it's becoming more popular."

Indeed, Printrak has been successful in landing law enforcement-related AFIS contracts worldwide, growing from $11.6 million in revenue in fiscal 1992 to $45.7 million in fiscal 1996.

Higgins added that Printrak has won about 80 to 90 percent of the AFIS contracts it has bid on and should do well in developing business in the non-law enforcement arena. Printrak's AFIS 2000 is an "end to end" system, including scanners to record a fingerprint image, a file archive to store it and a search engine to retrieve it.

"They have a more complete line of products than their competitors," which include NEC Corp., Cogent and N.A. Morpho Inc., Higgins said.

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