UK police trial mobile fingerprint ID technology

New mobile fingerprinting technology will allow frontline officers across the country to use their smartphones to identify people in less than a minute – saving police time and reducing costs. An app on an officer’s phone, combined with a handheld scanner, will mean police will be able to check fingerprints against both criminal and immigration records by connecting to the two live databases (IDENT1 and IABS) via the new Biometric Services Gateway.

West Yorkshire Police (WYP), who worked with the Home Office to trial the new system, will begin an initial roll out of 250 scanners to officers in the coming weeks – the app is already available to its 5,500 frontline officers. It is expected that another 20 forces across the country will roll out the system by the end of this year.

The Biometric Services Gateway, enabled by Home Office technology, will also lead to significant costs savings, with the new system available at a fraction of the cost of those currently in use. The scanners used by WYP cost less than £300 – 10% of the cost of current mobile fingerprint systems. To ensure the information accessed from the Biometric Services Gateway remains secure, fingerprints are not stored and are automatically deleted from the device once they have been checked.

As well as identifying a person of interest who may be withholding their name, the technology enables officers to rapidly identify someone experiencing a medical emergency and make contact with their next of kin. Early examples of the new system in action include a firearms unit, who detained a driver after a short pursuit and were able to identify him as a disqualified driver, despite him giving false details. He was issued with a summons for three offences and his vehicle seized. The armed response unit returned to patrol within ten minutes, and without the mobile fingerprint scanner this could have resulted in the unit being out of action for four hours taking the individual to a custody suite.