Interview with Jim Albers, Senior Vice President, Government Operations, MorphoTrust
fB: Can you please describe the various divisions within your company?
MorphoTrust: Since our purchase by Safran, a little more the 2 years ago, we’ve been in the process of eliminating the old divisions of L-1 Identity Solutions and unifying them as one company. We spent our first year at MorphoTrust breaking down the silos and were very successful, although our core competencies remain around multi-modal biometrics, enrollment services, and secure credentialing. This has been our second year as a Morpho company – coming together with our parent company and other Morpho companies – now with the ability to leverage all software and technology assets to create full solutions for the markets we serve.
fB: MorphoTrust secured a contract this year with the Department of Defense for their ABIS, can you tell us about this win please?
MorphoTrust: MorphoTrust™ ABIS® has been the key search engine in the authoritative database that the DoD has been running for about seven years. About five years ago we won the contract and granted the US DoD an enterprise license, so that any DoD agency could use ABIS. The 5 year contract that was just awarded is for the continuing of support and maintenance for that enterprise license as our ABIS software proliferates through the DoD agencies.
fB: That is a very successful product for you and it has been through many different generations. Why has it been so successful?
MorphoTrust T: One of the things that I think one of our predecessor companies had envisioned was a multi-modal solution that would use the best of the “main”, let’s call them, biometrics at the time – facial recognition, iris recognition, and fingerprint recognition – along with a fusion of those biometrics. So that vision started with the early ABIS product and has continued all the way up to ABIS 8, which is our newest version of ABIS. The eighth generation of ABIS is really a revolutionary improvement on multi-modal search engines because it uses an architecture that allows for plug and play algorithms. And what does that mean? In the early days of biometrics, most of these things were black boxes – it was our hardware; it was our software; you can run it and it will do this for you. ABIS 8 will now allow one of our sponsors, for example, to use the base to decide “well I want to use this company’s voice recognition,” or “I want to use this other company’s DNA” or, for example, “I want to plug in another face recognition algorithm as well as MorphoTrust’s.” So ABIS 8 now allows customers to do that.
fB: You also recently released a new version of the successful Offender ID product for prisons. Can you describe what new features it has?
MorphoTrust: When Offender ID first came out it primarily used iris recognition as the biometric to identity inmates being transferred within the prison system. The latest release of Offender ID is now also multi-modal in that it also offers the ability to use face, fingerprints and iris images to identify inmates as they are moved within the system. This solution has been particularly successful in Missouri.
fB: In a recent press release, MorphoTrust highlighted several new fingerprint contracts on the identity services side of your business, can you please elaborate on these wins?
MorphoTrust: The fingerprinting business that we started years ago has really taken off particularly in the federal space, but also with many state agencies. We have been winning a number of programs that do fingerprinting and background checks prior to the issuing of some kind of credential. The largest one of those programs, and perhaps the largest win we have had in the company’s history, has been the Universal Enrollment Services project. UES was awarded by the TSA last year and it went into full operating capability, or FOC, as they call, it in July of this year. The program subsumed the old TWIC program (Transportation Workers Identification Card ) and HAZPRINT programs – the program that allows people to transport hazardous waste. They were the first few things to come out under that UES program, and in the past month, actually, DHS announced UES as the vehicle to handle Pre?™ for the TSA. Pre?™ is also a background check that will allow people to be granted fast access through the Pre?™ line in airports across the United Sates. That is our fastest growing program of enrollment services. We see that continuing to grow particularly as things happen in the U.S.; for example, we are anticipating immigration reform activities that we can handle in our 1,200 enrollment centers. Another example, is we can do concealed weapons background checks – whatever the state needs us to do we can handle it in our enrollment centers.
fB: Where are you seeing the greatest growth within your company when you talk about your three different areas?
MorphoTrust: Well, we actually see the greatest growth in the next year or two in the convergence of our core competencies, particularly as it comes to mobile devices. We’ve had customers that are looking to do away with paper, with solid credentials, with credentials that you carry in your wallet, for example, for something that you might be able to show on your phone or on your tablet. So we are looking to combine the best of secure credentialing. The things that we do with digital watermarking, for example, with biometrics, perhaps one-to-one face recognition or, in the pretty near future, iris recognition with a credential that is on mobile devices. More and more, even customers that you might not think would be interested are very much interested in that and we can foresee in the not too distant future some kind of electronic passport, for example.
fB: That sort of answers my next question… do you see mobility as a key driver for the biometric industry over the next few years?
MorphoTrust: Absolutely. I think more and more biometrics will become accepted and people will begin to see by using their cell phone that their lives are simplified and protected against cybercrime and identity theft; they will be able to self-authenticate transactions using secure credentials on the phone as well as using a biometric to either do one-to-one verification or one-to-many identification.
fB: I couldn’t agree more with you Jim. What will you be highlighting at this year’s Biometric Consortium Conference coming up in Tampa?
MorphoTrust: Well actually we have kind of a unique situation here because in our second year, as I mentioned, we focused on coming together as one of the Morpho companies and working with our sister companies MorphoTrak and MorphoDetection, particularly, so you will see that we will be showing the vision for the future as biometrics moves beyond our current view into the commercial arena and the transactional business of securing the lives of Americans – even beyond biometrics, because MorphoDetection, for example, is one of our sister companies. So you will see the whole end-to-end solution. We’ve been very successful, Peter, as you probably know. Most of us started with identifying bad guys. My particular background with biometrics that I was involved in was really proven in Iraq and Afghanistan. So it is our goal right now to show how biometrics and pure credentialing can converge to simplify the lives of Americans.
fB: Very exciting. And you are giving a talk on the Tuesday at the conference aren’t you?
MorphoTrust: Yes I am giving a talk on Tuesday, and I’ll be talking about exactly that – how we take our successes from the government space and move into commercial.
fB: Thanks very much Jim for your insights.
MorphoTrust: It has been a pleasure speaking with you Peter.