Gone are the days of dipping your thumb in ink. Servicemen and women overseas can now download a special application for processing biometric data, like thumbprints and iris scans, directly onto their smart phones. And soon enough, they'll be able to wirelessly send that data over a secure, real-time connection to anywhere in the world.
The new capability is made possible by 3G/4G wireless secure technology integration, a mesh network design node developed by CACI and its industry partners. It's not the first secure telephone communications service, but it is the first that enables smart phones in theater to process and send data almost immediately.
"This technology is cutting-edge because we're inserting it in the combat environment," says Vinnie Pugliese, Director for CACI's C4ISR Mission Systems Group. "Servicemen who are separated geographically by hundreds of miles can now capture and process critical data in real time."
CACI integrated the existing military satellite communications system with 3G capability to create this biometrics intelligence architecture dissemination (BIAD) system. Building off the already-funded Department of Defense satellite communications system has saved the government and taxpayers money. In addition, it has allowed CACI to produce the technology in a relatively short time.
Pugliese explains, "In the acquisition cycle within the Department of Defense, something like this would take a couple years, but we're doing it in less than 18 months."
Without the BIAD's technology, troops in the field have no immediate way to access important databases full of biometric information. Instead, they rely on watch lists stored on their mobile devices. A watch list might have 10,000 people on it, but that's still a small number compared to the 3.5 million records that are stored in a central database.
Tony Crawford, Director of Biometrics for CACI's Mission Critical Division Group (C4ISR), describes the risks of the current system by using a scenario in which a serviceman takes a person's biometric data. If he doesn't find that person's name on the watch list, he simply lets them through the checkpoint.
"Four days later, after the serviceman has tethered his device to a laptop and sent the biometric data to the repository, he might get a hit that ties that person to an IED [Improvised Explosive Device] event seven years ago that killed 15 people. Imagine all the potential persons of interest that we could let through using the 19th century technology," Crawford concludes.
For conventional forces in combat, transmitting and receiving biometric data can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Crawford explains that times vary because the data has to go through as many as 15 synchronized servers.
With the new 3G technology, however, the data bypasses those servers and goes straight to the central server – which means servicemen will know in a matter of minutes if they should detain a person of interest.
Wireless secure technology integration is picking up speed quickly. The BIAD system successfully passed certification and accreditation gates in spring 2011 and is currently being deployed to support warfighters.
Initially, one Brigade Combat Team consisting of about 400 to 500 service members will use the technology. However, CACI expects thousands of warfighters to eventually take advantage of the capability to transmit all types of data.
"Our capability can provide the warfighter with enhanced force protection posture, provide indications and warning, and improve counterintelligence and human operations," Crawford concludes. "As long as it's a data point, the system can transmit it to where it needs to go."