SA police to verify identities with Android fingerprint scanner

A fleet of 150 Android-powered mobile fingerprint biometric scanners from NEC will be deployed to allow the South Australian police verify identities of suspects on the spot.

South Australia's police will now have the luxury of having Australia's criminal database at the tips of their fingers, with the introduction of 150 NEC-built mobile fingerprint biometric scanners.

Developed, implemented, and managed by NEC Australia's security and public safety team, the application, which has been on trial since late 2013, consists of a single fingerprint scanner that is paired via Bluetooth to an Android smartphone device. It has been designed to allow police officers to verify a suspect's identity on the spot in less than 40 seconds.

Police officers scan up to four fingerprints of a suspect and cross-reference the information — via a secure network and 3G/4G mobile data networks — against Australia's Crimtrac national police reference database, which contains 5.6 million sets of sets of finger and palm records for 3.3 million people.

NEC Australia biometric solutions senior manager Lance Heather said the system could save police hours, as they would no longer have to take suspects back to the station.

"If the system returns with a 'hit', it will show the person's details, including name, ID, any bail conditions, any outstanding warrants, a current photo, any behaviour characteristics like 'tendency to be violent', so that the member can make the appropriate decision on the spot," he said.

Heather also said that the technology was designed to reduce the amount of inaccurate identity claims — a frequent challenge that police officers face.

"The current scenario now is when a police member stops a person of interest to query them, they usually ask for their identification and so forth, but that person could give them a bogus ID, and then the police would have lost that person thereafter," he said.

The deployment will be the first time an Australian police force has implemented an identity management technology on a smartphone mobile device.

"The reason behind this is the SA Police were looking to distribute smartphone devices for other applications for the police to use, like rosters, and we thought let's utilise that and provide the application on the device," Heather said.

However, in order for the scanners to be fully functional, some changes to the law will be made, SA Police Minister John Rau said. Changes to the Summary Offences Act and the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act 2007 will give police officers the power to request a person for their fingerprints if they are reasonably suspected of having committed an offence.

Rau said it will coincide with the rollout of 350 Acer Iconia 10-inch tablets in the coming weeks. They will be used at Adelaide's Elizabeth Station to allow officers to directly enter information into computer databases from wherever they are.

"The introduction of both fingerprint scanners and tablet computing are great examples of how technology can improve policing practices and keep officers on the streets, rather than filling in paperwork," he said.