Police Investigate Face ID Products

Police Investigate Face ID Products

By Andrea Novotny
Staff Writer

Viisage Technology Inc. officials are counting on the company's new facial recognition software product to fetch $250 million in sales to law enforcement officials nationwide during the next four years.

The facial recognition software is credited by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for leading to the arrest of a carjacking suspect last month. That arrest came three days after the software was put into service by the department, Viisage officials said.

The software was created by the Littleton, Mass., company and then integrated with the CRIMES suite of law enforcement software developed by San Diego-based ImageWare Software Inc. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is the first commercial sale of this application of Viisage's facial recognition software. ImageWare's CRIMES software package without facial identification has been sold to law enforcement authorities for two years.

The integrated software package allows law enforcement officials to search local and statewide digital photo databases of images - including mug shots and motor vehicle files - to find possible matches based on computerized composite sketches of suspects or images caught on surveillance video. It also helps officers identify a criminal with multiple identities or outstanding warrants when they are booking a suspect.

Los Angeles County paid $22,000 for the software package, which includes vehicle recognition and other products, said Bob Schmitt, vice president of sales and marketing at Viisage.

"The carjacking suspect would never have been identified without the facial recognition software. Face ID is one of the most innovative breakthroughs in law enforcement technology," said Sgt. Bill Conley of the Los Angeles County sheriff's office.

Schmitt said police departments in Baltimore, Chicago and New York are considering purchasing the facial recognition software that enabled the arrest of a suspect three days after Los Angeles' sheriff's office activated the system Nov. 7.

Law enforcement officials are intrigued by the chances that a database search using the facial recognition software will produce a match since 86 percent of crimes are committed by previous offenders, Schmitt said.

Viisage's competitors include Miros Inc., Wellesley, Mass., and Visionics Corp., Jersey City, N.J.

"Face recognition in law enforcement is a $500 million market," Schmitt said. "Face ID is such a natural tool for law enforcement professionals to use ... to find people who commit crimes. It will have a tremendous impact."

"The market for security software for identification is expected to be worth $2 billion in 2000," said Joe Burke, vice president of marketing for Miros.

Viisage, which develops and implements turnkey digital identification systems, had revenues of $24.9 million in 1996. For the first nine months of 1997, the company made $21.8 million, said Roy Nilson, a Viisage spokesperson.

Miros, a small, privately held competitor that offers biometrics face recognition software, announced in August a face recognition security product for PCs that runs on Windows 95, Burke said.

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