OBIM sets sights on new biometric database
25 September 2014 12:12 GMT

OBIM expects to be handling 400,000 searches a day in the coming years

The US Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management will receive US$20 million in extra funding to keep its existing identification system operating while a new database is developed, a senior OBIM official confirmed to Planet Biometrics at the Global Identity Summit in Tampa.

The official confirmed that the new database is required because the 20-year-old system is currently dealing with 300,000 transactions a day (hitting a database of 173 million unique identities) in comparison to 220,000 (hitting a database of 150 million unique identities) a year ago.

The current system would be overloaded should the level reach 375,000 daily queries, while above 400,000 transactions there will be further degradation - with possible impact on response times – said the OBIM official.

The DHS is expected to move forward with a new database within the next two to four years, with any new system expected to incorporate multiple biometrics such as finger, iris, voice recognition or even DNA if there is perceived to be a customer need.

The new system would likely do "everything NGI does", said the official, referring to the Next Generation Identification system implemented by the FBI earlier this month, adding that it will be “flexible and scaleable”. (Interestingly, the capability of the new proposed system would approximately double current capacities, which could be in preparation for a potential Exit program at the border.)

In June, a Senate subcommittee recommended that nearly $250 million be allocated to OBIM, including $25 million for “system improvements” to the Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).

“The Committee strongly supports IDENT modernization; though given budget constraints, the recommended level will support only half the proposed purchase of 10-print biometric matching devices. OBIM is encouraged to apply any cost savings during the fiscal year to modernization efforts,” wrote the report.

The parameters OBIM has to work within are tight: In response to queries from Customs and Border Protection, OBIM’s systems have 10 seconds to match (or not) a person’s identity. Meanwhile, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the expectation is two minutes.

It has to compare these against a national watchlist within IDENT that consists of about 8.8 million records of higher threat individuals such as known and suspected terrorists.

The $25 million in funds is for “bridging the gap”, he said, while noting that many capabilities and improvements made to the current system, such as new matching algorithms, will be able to transition into the new system.