By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security
One of the biggest takeaways from last week’s 10th Annual Homeland Security Week conference in Pentagon City, Va., was the fascinating subject of biometrics and the new mobile devices on offer to quickly obtain and analyze personal data from an individual.
Biometrics are technologies that capture and confirm the identity of people by analyzing their physical characteristics and comparing those attributes to records found in a database. And, it’s not just a person’s fingerprint that is examined anymore; biometric technologies can also scan faces, palms, voices, irises and even a person’s DNA.
Two companies spearheading the mobile biometrics revolution are Grabba and Bi² Technologies. The two companies entered into a professional partnership earlier this year and currently manufacture some groundbreaking products and resources that look like they belong in the future – but they’re in use now in numerous professional fields including homeland security and public safety.
Grabba’s Senior Vice President Laurie Pane stated that his company makes “data-collection devices that can be easily attached to smartphones and tablets.”
The hardware involved is lightweight, universal and extremely easy to install. It is capable of scanning virtually any card, passport, driver’s license or any other machine-readable document. Grabba – in partnership with Bi² Technologies – has also incorporated fingerprint, iris and other biometric elements into their products.
Pane stated that U.S. Customs and Border Protection currently uses hundreds of Grabba’s handheld devices to assist agents in the field, and the devices are also currently in the hands of numerous police and sheriff departments nationwide. Grabba also supplies the devices to 32 other countries, where they are utilized by the Dutch Police as well as the British Home Office, to name just a couple.
“We’ve got a proven product which reads the data and presents the data on a smartphone or tablet screen,” said Pane. And he means any smartphone or tablet including each of the major operating systems – iOS, Android and Windows.
Sean Mullin is the CEO of Bi² Technologies. The company’s primary products are software applications designed to help public and private organizations to use iris biometric identification technologies to quickly and accurately identify a person. In fact, Bi² Technologies designed and launched the nation’s only iris biometric-based database and network.
“Our two organizations, because of their respective strengths and focus, have formed the single most innovated and formidable mobile biometric offering in the world today,” stated Mullin. “And, we can demonstrate it in real time on criminal justice databases. We’re in a strategic position for both of our companies that – over the next several years – there will be no one who can compete with us.”
A demonstration of the Grabba devices linked to databases at the Homeland Security Week conference clearly showed the benefits to not only immigration agents, but also to personnel in the fields of public safety, health care, education and many other professional arenas.
For example, if someone is pulled over by a police officer on the highway, the usual routine is for the officer to take the driver’s license and registration and return to his or her patrol car. With a Grabba device, the police officer is able to scan the driver’s license and immediately receive real-time background data on the officer’s smartphone. The data is encrypted and available over cellular or Wi-Fi connections – letting the police officer know who he or she is dealing with. The same process is utilized by CBP agents who can quickly scan a passport or other immigration document through the Grabba device and acquire immediate information.
Mullin and Pane see a real possibility of streamlining all the various data systems currently in use by local, state, federal and national criminal justice and public safety organizations – or at least the possibility is there to make all the systems compatible; and that is vital for future terrorist attacks on the United States.
“In our post 9/11 world, we face many of the same challenges we had back then. And because of those challenges, and the way organizations inherently act, the technology that we’ve built can help bridge the inability or reluctance to share data,” said Mullin.
Another promising application of the Grabba devices with Bi² Technologies’ software lies in the field of health care and first responders. As long as the infrastructure and data is efficiently housed on the back-end (e.g., the patient has agreed at some point to a fingerprint or iris scanning as part of their health care or doctor’s office application process), a first responder arriving to treat an unconscious individual would be able to use a Grabba device to scan the patient’s fingerprint or iris and receive immediate notification that the patient is allergic to penicillin or has a pacemaker etc. That is a life-saving proposition.
There are already expansive databases in the United States that house various personal information records on individuals. Additionally, of course, the nation’s criminal justice systems have massive databases on all individuals arrested and/or convicted of a crime. Grabba and Bi² Technologies have the existing technology required to tap into all of those databases, and it’s really as simple as attaching a small Grabba device to a smartphone or tablet.
Both companies envision a future whereby, instead of a person sitting down and filling out paperwork on a clipboard with a pen, a 5-second iris scan will automatically reveal all the pertinent and required information – immediately.
To learn more about Grabba and Bi² Technologies, visit their respective websites: