DHS buys fingerprint scanners

The Homeland Security Department took a major step this week in its plan to use fingerprint biometrics before issuing visas by awarding a $27 million contract to Identix Inc. for a fingerprint-scanning product.

Under terms of a blanket purchase agreement (BPA), Identix will provide its TouchPrint 3000 line of fingerprint biometric, live-scan booking stations and desktop systems to the Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and other DHS agencies.

The contract was awarded following a competitive bid process that evaluated the "best overall value."

"This BPA could prove to be one of the largest biometric live scan contracts ever issued, worldwide," said Joseph Atick, president and chief executive officer for Identix.

The scanner uses optical and lighting to capture an image. The technology allows the scan to ignore moisture, dirt and other residue on a person's hand.

Identix's system will be used to digitally capture and electronically send an applicant's fingerprints to the FBI. The image is used as part of a criminal background check before DHS decides whether to grant immigration benefits to an applicant.

Although the system at first will be used on a limited basis primarily to handle asylum requests and applications for citizenship, Identix expects that it will eventually be deployed to handle background checks before an applicant enters the United States.

"Down the line, it's expected the system will check before people come to this country," said Frances Zelazny, Identix's director of corporate communications.

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