Handheld fingerprint readers will be rolled out to police across the UK from 2010 as part of the Project Midas scheme, allowing officers to perform on-the-spot ID checks without having to take suspects back to the station.
The project will initially allow each force to ID suspects on the move by providing mobile access to the 7.5 million fingerprint scans held on the police's Ident1 biometric database.
Speaking at Biometrics Exhibition and Conference 2008 on Tuesday, Geoff Whitaker, chief technology officer of biometrics at the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), said other biometrics, such as facial scans and the ability to access mug shots of suspects on the handheld scanners, could be added at a later date.
The Police National Computer, immigration databases and intelligence databases could also have real-time links to the mobile scanners in future, giving police officers almost instant access to a person's ID and personal information.
Whitaker said: "Increasingly, police officers are expecting more mobile data. We are trying to move towards more integrated mobile databases. Midas will deliver a fully national biometric solution for the UK police."
Whitaker said that the NPIA is experimenting with smaller, solid-state fingerprint sensors and stressed the importance of a system that works in all weathers and situations.
Midas follows an earlier biometrics trial, Lantern, run over the last 18 months. The pilot saw around 200 handheld fingerprint scanners used to carry out roadside ID checks.
Lantern has seen 30,000 checks run against the Ident1 database, with 80 percent of results returned in two minutes.
Project Midas will run until 2013 and will be delivered by several private suppliers, with the first contract to be awarded next year.