DHS seeks biometric screening systems for 2019 ‘technology rally’

Participants will get the chance to have their technologies tested in a simulated "standard security checkpoint process."

The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate announced Wednesday that it has released a public call for submissions for a “biometric technology rally” to be held in the spring of 2019.

The rally will be modeled after one held in March, when 12 different face and iris recognition systems were tested in a simulated “standard security checkpoint process.” For purveyors of biometric screening technology it provided an opportunity to test their products in a realistic scenario and gather that valuable data. For government agencies like the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, it was a way to see what’s out there.

Participants from both industry and government raved about the inaugural rally. “Getting test data from an independent source is really, really difficult and really, really expensive,” Mary Haskett, the founder of one of the tested vendors, said. “It’s easy to test software if you’re Apple, but getting a large number of test subjects to come in and go through your system is actually very difficult. So this is wonderful for us.”

Now, DHS wants more.


“The 2018 rally established very aggressive objective and threshold metrics for speed, performance and user satisfaction,” Arun Vemury, director of DHS S&T’s Biometrics and Identity Technology Center, said in a statement. “While some rally participants met a few criteria, no single commercial offering was able to meet all objectives.”

Vemury and others are hoping that participants have incorporated some of what they learned in the first go around and that this showing will be better. This second rally will be open to fingerprint biometric systems as well as those focused on faces and irises.

“We believe this will further accelerate improvements in biometric system performance that benefits DHS and our mission partners,” Vemury said.

DHS will use the results of the exercise “to inform planning activities” and will share results with industry and researchers to support the further development of the technology.

The agency will hold an informational webinar about the 2019 rally on Nov. 5. Organizations that want to participate need to submit a white paper and a video showing their system’s capabilities by Nov. 30.

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