Police to get £40m mobile fingerprinting kit

By Mike Simons | The Home Office is preparing to spend up to £40m on the roll out of a mobile biometric identification service.

The police are seeking the ability to provide real or near-real time identification of people at the scenes of incidents, through accessing fingerprint and other biometric information held by law and order agencies.

The government is calling for bidders for a framework agreement involving a maximum of 10 suppliers that will run for four years, with a possible two year extension to allow it to synchronise the contract with its Ident1, fingerprint recognition contract.

The project, dubbed “MIDAS,” follows on from the successful implementation of the Project Lantern mobile identification pilot schemes.

Project Lantern was mobile hand-held fingerprinting trial that enabled police officers to check a person’s identity in an operational environment and check them against the Ident1 national database.

The successful trial saw results returned, usually within a few minutes, and provided information to aid identification. The devices speeded up the process of establishing identity, and also allowed officers to make informed decisions by knowing whether an individual was wanted or dangerous.

A pilot began in November 2006, deploying 100 Lantern devices in ten police forces, mainly in support of work involving automatic number plate recognition technology.

In March 2008 an additional 100 devices were deployed in a further 10 forces to explore the device’s use in broader police work. This included officers in local stations, roads policing units and support groups.

The pilot has now been extended to March 2010 while a national solution is procured.

According to the National Police Improvement Agency, the pilot studies have shown significant time savings. Forces using Lantern together with Automatic Number Plate Recognition showed an average time saving of more than an hour per stop. In a survey of officers, involved in the trials, 90 per cent estimated that Lantern was saving at least 30 minutes per case.

Defence contractor and supplier Northrop Grumman was responsible for the design, deployment and support of the pilot project. Its sub-contractor Sagem supplied the Lantern devices and searching capability on Ident1. Cable&Wireless provide the encryption and secure connectivity.