Interview with Ramsey Billups, Vice President Biometric Solutions, 3M Cogent
fB: 3M Cogent covers many vertical markets from law enforcement and government applications to commercial markets, where are you seeing the greatest growth?
3M: Certainly I believe the greatest growth is in the handheld markets particularly in law enforcement whereby law enforcement agencies and personnel have a need to be able to identify a person on the spot quickly and accurately. So I think that the fastest growing market within biometrics within 3M Cogent is indeed the handheld mobile device where you are able to capture a fingerprint and perform a one-to-many search on the device itself or have the device transmit back to a larger and centralized AFIS to perform a one-to-many search on a watch list and obtain a response back in real time, real time being within 10-20 seconds. This is probably the fastest growing market right now within 3M Cogent.
fB: That leads well into my next question specifically around mobile identification which is critical for police forces around the world these days. Can you tell us a little bit more about the success of your mobile ID product suite?
3M: There are a couple of devices that we have right now. One is known as the BlueCheck© II. The BlueCheck© II is a relatively small device that weighs approximately 5 ounces, it’s ruggedized and it is FBI certified for 500 ppi. It has an optical sensor or it is PIV certified 500 ppi using a silicon sensor. With this device you can perform two types of searches, a capture of a fingerprint and a search directly on the device or you can transfer the fingerprints to a PDA or a laptop using Bluetooth technology. One of the features that we also provide is we have 3M Cogent software that runs on android, iOS and Blackberry operating systems in order to transmit the fingerprints to another device and perform the matching there. By design, 3M Cogent is agnostic in terms of the different types of devices that we can actually run our software on.
fB: The law enforcement community must really appreciate the fact that now they can identify someone very quickly. It must produce tremendous savings but also in terms of catching the bad guys, when you can find out somebody’s history right on the spot.
3M: Prior to the advent of mobile real-time capabilities, the law enforcement agent would have to transport the person in question back to the station and run their fingerprints or biometrics against a larger AFIS system and that could take a long time to transport a person back and run their prints or biometrics. Now you can run those biometrics right on the spot, get a response back in seconds and 9 times out of 10 you will find that that person has not committed any type of criminal offense and they’d be free to go. Whereas previously you would have to take them back and run their check and that could be very time consuming and unnecessarily takes the officer off the street only to find that they had no previous criminal record.
fB: So there is a good ROI there too, a cost savings because you are keeping your law enforcement community on the street and they are not having to tie up their time by transporting and spending time back at headquarters.
3M: Precisely correct. Taking a person back to the station when that person may not have committed a crime, yes that officer is off the street such that they are not actually out chasing a person that they need to chase or apprehend.
fB: This would also be used in military applications as well. Correct?
3M: Yes. With the Department of Defense in providing handheld devices to the military where the military is able to use the device when they apprehend persons of interest in the field. DoD personnel can electronically capture a subject’s fingerprints and search the prints against the a DoD or FBI type of watch list database. The military use of hand held devices is similar in function to the use of a hand held device within law enforcement.
fB: And first responder situations, like large fires or the kind of disaster that happened in New York recently, where you really want to identify who is going in and out of a particular area, I think it would come in handy there as well.
3M: Peter you are absolutely right and to identify unknown deceased when you had the situation with hurricane Katrina of several years ago and hurricane Sandy that affected the east coast. One of the uses is the identification of unknown deceased individuals using a mobile fingerprint capture and identification device.
fB: I guess one of the things that makes all this possible are your algorithms and NIST recently recognized 3M Cogent’s latent fingerprint algorithm during their latest tests. Why does 3M Cogent always score so high during these tests?
3M: One of the reasons for this is that 3M Cogent is a big believer in investing in improving its technology. Each year, a dedicated percentage of our overall revenue is allocated to research and development. We have many talented scientists and engineers in our Pasadena and our St. Paul offices that spend the majority of their time improving the algorithm. It is their job to improve the algorithm in terms of not only speed but accuracy, so we are always looking to get at least a 10% improvement in accuracy on a yearly basis. We are also always looking to increase the speed of our matching algorithms by doubling throughput every two to three years. That is our goal.
fB: That is very impressive but I guess that is what allows all this high speed rapid mobile identification. Without that it wouldn’t be possible.
3M: You are absolutely right. The research and development is truly the key component to making it all happen. A lot of the focus or most of the focus is on things that you can see up front, the actual delivery of a unit or the actual matching of a unit but some of the things that are happening behind the scenes including the research and development really makes our products soar above some of our competition.
fB: Very good. Earlier this year you announced that 34,000 legal names were removed from pension payroll in an African country. This was a project led by 3M Cogent. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
3M: Certainly. There is a project that 3M Cogent recently was awarded and the purpose of this was to reduce the amount of fraud within the government in terms of what the government refers to as, “ghost pensioners” where there are pension cheques being paid by the government to persons who are deceased and those cheques are being cashed by relatives or friends of that deceased person. So the idea behind the project was to ensure that fraud was minimized or eliminated and for the most part it has been eliminated because each person who receives a pension cheque today must physically present themselves periodically to have their fingerprint captured to ensure that the person who is entitled to that pension cheque is truly the person that is receiving that pension cheque and that they still are alive and well. So that has been a landmark project for us in that we have been able to reduce the fraud significantly within the government. The government of Guyana pay a certain amount of dollars for the system but the amount that they save in terms of fraud reduction or elimination of fraud is probably 10-20 times the initial investment. As a result, the government is pleased with the system that we have provided to them.
fB: That is quite a success and I can see that these types of systems could be applicable and advantageous in a number of areas. I know that in Canada, health care fraud exists and a system like this could really go a long way to solving that problem as well.
3M: You’re absolutely right Peter. The type of system we provided for Guyana could be used really in any country with minor tailoring or minor customizations but the fraud reduction capability that we provided is applicable just about anywhere.
fB: Was this a very good year for 3M Cogent?
3M: Yes it has been a very good year for 3M Cogent. We are basically 2 years into the acquisition and it has been a very good year for 3M Cogent. We’ve increased our workforce, we’ve increased our customer base and our revenue numbers are what we have expected them to be at this point.
fB: Well thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.
3M: My pleasure Peter.
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