INTERVIEW: Scott Swann, Senior Director for Innovation, MorphoTrak

RVB_Morpho (1)Peter O’Neill, President of FindBiometrics, recently had a chance to speak with Scott Swann, Senior Innovation Director at MorphoTrak (Safran). The conversation centers around the workshop that Swann will be moderating at the upcoming Global Identity Summit (GIS) in Tampa, while also going on to examine MorphoTrak’s recent innovations in contactless fingerprint scanning – particularly the company’s award winning MorphoWave solution that we got a close look at during this year’s ISC West conference.


Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics (FB): Since you joined MorphoTrak last December, you have been very active in driving new technology programs for the company. Let’s start with the Global Identity Summit coming up in Tampa this month. Can you tell us about the workshop you will be moderating there?

Scott Swann, Senior Innovation Director, MorphoTrak (MT): Yes, absolutely. The workshop will be held on Wednesday, September 23 at 10:45 am until 12:00 pm and the purpose of this is to bring together industry, academia, government practitioners and other stakeholders related to fingerprinting operations occurring within the United States and internationally, to try to advance the adoption of the technology. Contactless fingerprint acquisition has been a research challenge for quite some time. In fact, the office of National Science Technology Council has on two occasions listed contactless fingerprint in their national biometric challenges official documentation. This workshop is an attempt to go beyond the research and start crafting a roadmap for how we can introduce the technology into operational environments that will ultimately benefit the United States and the rest of the world.

FB: Can you expand on who this might be of interest to? Who is on your panel?

MT: The panel will be organized in a unique way to facilitate the discussions among panelists and attendees. Currently, we have confirmed participation from:

  • The FBI, which as you know currently manages the certification process for fingerprint capture devices.
  • NIST, which has established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with several industry vendors to advance contactless fingerprint technology development.
  • MITRE, which is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center. They are experts in the measurement and testing of fingerprint technology and currently conduct device certification testing on behalf of the FBI to place products on the FBI certification program.

We have each of these representatives on our panel as well as users from state and local law enforcement agencies. The user perspective is equally important so we want to make sure that we have practitioners as part of the panel. We will kick start the workshop with each panelist providing a brief overview on their interest and needs in contactless fingerprinting technologies. Then we will solicit participation from the workshop attendees to go through some lightening round discussions where an attendee can stand up for a couple of minutes and announce who they are with, talk about their interests, and provide their recommendations on how to help accelerate the market adoption of this technology. We hope by the end of the workshop we will have animated discussion with enriched insights that we can use to publish a white paper. The intent of this paper is to provide a baseline with constructive recommendations to advance the adoption and commercialization of contactless fingerprint technology. We plan to establish a working group after this workshop to help author the white paper and ensure it is appropriately vetted prior to its publication.

FB: I know that there have been great advances made on the touchless front. Can you give a bit of an update as to the progress there?

Scott Swann MorphoWave

The MorphoWave can scan and match four fingerprints from a single wave of a user’s hand.

MT: Yes. I think people that watched this technology ten years ago saw this as a research problem, but there have been several advancements. This past spring at the International Security Conference West, the ISC West 2015, Morpho won the innovation award of the overall conference for its contactless fingerprint solution. This particular solution, MorphoWave, is very appealing to access control and has the potential to provide a major impact to the way we do non-criminal justice background checks and border control. There are other industry vendors offering similar solutions for contactless fingerprinting and we now see evaluation programs and pilot projects being conducted to field test the technology. The technology allows someone to swipe a hand over a capture volume and within one second it will produce fingerprints that can be used for either one-to-many matching or verification of that individual. So that is progress within Morpho, but there are several other vendors that are also advancing potential solutions, and collectively we can define a roadmap to promote a competitive market space and better solutions to protect our citizens and secure our borders.

FB: I had an opportunity to try out your MorphoWave at ISC West in Las Vegas, and I couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was, so I think the advances that have been made are fantastic. What are some of the challenges this panel hopes to resolve?

MT: Well, one major challenge is that this technology is a significant shift from current fingerprinting technology, which has always been a “touch-based” technology. The image quality processes that have been used for over a decade on how to measure the output of live-scan fingerprint devices to meet FBI certification are not compatible with contactless technology. Typically, the legacy devices require physical contact with a capture platen or surface area. With this particular technology those protocols for how you measure image quality, how you can tell that it is doing what it is supposed to do, how you know that those fingerprint images are representative, and how you know that you can take this information to courts and that it be admissible and be used for prosecutions – all these protocols need to evolve. The FBI has adapted their certification in the past on multiple occasions and there are lessons-learned to draw from such as what was achieved with the National Fingerprint Based Applicant Check Study that introduced Identification Flats fingerprints. In my opinion, we’re at the phase where pilots and proof of concepts can help assess the feasibility and inform the standards similar to the results of that study. So we look to this panel to provide some good suggestions on how to begin testing and proving the feasibility of this technology. In access control, as validated at ISC West, the technology is being adopted and several customers are pursuing contactless fingerprint solutions already, but for the one-to-many use cases such as applicant background checks and border crossing where we could replace legacy touch technologies and provide a major impact to national security, law enforcement, defense, and border control, there is still a lot of testing and evaluation that needs to occur to build the confidence into the stake holders. I look forward to the help from my colleagues in taking on this challenge.

FB: Well, Scott, thank you very much for filling us in on your panel. It is wonderful technology and I look forward to hearing the results about it. Is there still room available? How does one sign up for this particular discussion?

MT: Absolutely! They can just show up at the conference. The workshop is listed in the conference agenda and we welcome anyone that can come and share their thoughts on how to advance the technology. Certainly we will have a working group that will continue to talk through the challenges and try to provide these recommendations back to the government on how to advance the technology. They can contact me directly, and I will be glad to include them in all of our outreach materials. My email address is

FB: Thanks and I look forward to seeing you in Tampa next week.