The Latent AFIS Interoperability Project

Developing technical specifications that form a foundation for latent AFIS interoperability

Latent interoperability–the ability to search a latent print against another state or local database–has been limited by an inability to communicate among disparate Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS). This lack of interoperability has been of great national interest and is specifically addressed in the National Academies’ report, Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward.

Noblis, working with the NIST Law Enforcement Standards Office (OLES) and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), developed technical specifications that form a foundation for latent AFIS interoperability. This project focused on:

  • Creating open standards to enable seamless, efficient hierarchical (local-state-regional-federal) and peer-peer (local-local, state-state, etc.) searches
  • Simplifying acquisitions with a standardized latent AFIS interface
  • Propagating latent examiner notations by establishing uniform best practices and standards for data interchange

In October 2014, the White House National Science and Technology Council issued a report, “Achieving Interoperability for Latent Fingerprint Identification in the United States” that draws extensively on the latent AFIS interoperability work conducted by Noblis. 

The ANSI/NIST-ITL 2011 standard, Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial & Other Biometric Information, defines the Extended Feature Set (EFS) for friction ridge images, which provides the syntax for encoding features in fingerprints or palmprints. This project is developing three interrelated specifications that build upon the ANSI/NIST-ITL standard and are designed to be interoperable among AFIS from different vendors, to enable cross-jurisdictional searches that would not otherwise be practical.  

1.1  EFS Profile Specification

Defines the specific set of EFS fields to be incorporated in ANSI/NIST-ITL transactions, to be used in latent fingerprint/palmprint AFIS searches. The EFS Profiles are to be published as a companion document to the ANSI/NIST-ITL standard.
Final draft: EFS Profile Specification Version 1.04, August 2012   

2.1  EFS Markup Instructions

Provides the semantic definitions of the features, specifying a standard set of definitions and best practices for the markup of vendor-neutral fingerprint and palmprint features for the use of both latent print examiners and feature extraction algorithm developers.
Final draft:  EFS Markup Instructions Version 1.0, 30 March 2012

3.1  Latent Interoperability Transmission Specification (LITS)

Completes the progression by providing definitions of transactions. LITS is a system-level specification, parallel to and conformant with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI's) Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS), but focused on the definition of vendor-neutral latent transactions to be exchanged among disparate cross-jurisdictional AFIS.

Final draft: Latent Interoperability Transmission Specification (LITS) Version 1.0, 15 February 2012

Recent Activities and Upcoming Events
  • Multiple meetings and discussions were held with all major AFIS vendors to obtain buy-in for the LITS concept.
  • The LITS document set was reviewed by representative latent laboratory and section managers as well as by latent print examiners.
  • LITS concepts were presented at the IAI in August 2011 in Milwaukee
    • 1,000 brochures were distributed
    • Two briefings were presented
    • URL for a public website where the LITS document set is maintained was publicized
  • LITS was presented to representatives of several Federal agencies at the DHS Biometrics Coordination Group.
  • LITS concept was presented at the Forum on AFIS Latent Print Interoperability to representatives of all Federal agencies involved with biometrics.
  • LITS was presented to the National Science and Technology Council Subcommittee on Forensic Sciences.
  • LITS was presented during a panel discussion at the Biometrics Consortium Conference in Tampa in September 2011.
Compatibility with CJIS EBTS 9.3

LITS will provide interoperability with the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) by being fully conformant with the CJIS EBTS 9.3 data exchange specification. This will allow the latent examiner to encode the latent friction ridge detail one time and search any LITS compliant AFIS and NGI from one workstation without re-encoding the latent print.

The development of LITS is closely linked to the EBTS development and changes impacting latent transactions and processing are updated as they are received. The FBI CJIS EBTS 9.3 was published in final form in December 2011. EBTS v9.3 contains the preliminary technical changes necessary for FBI/CJIS to execute NGI Increment 3 (latent processing capability), which is due to be implemented during 2013. While some changes are anticipated, the requirements for Profile 0 (Image Only Search – LFIS) and Profile 2 (Quick Minutiae Search – LFFS) have been defined for use by NGI and the LITS compatible systems and are not expected to change.

Suggested Request for Proposal (RFP) Language for LITS Conformant AFIS

While the vendor community has participated and supports the development of LITS, final implementation of LITS by the vendors has not yet been fully realized. It is expected that the vendors will incorporate LITS in response to requests for AFIS upgrades and replacements. To ensure that an agency obtains the interoperability capabilities enabled by LITS, it is recommended that the following model requirements be included in the agencies RFP.  

LITS Conformance Requirement: The vendor shall implement a data transmission format that is conformant with the Latent Interoperability Transmission Specification, 1.0 (or later).  A LITS conformant AFIS shall accept LFIS and LFFS transactions as latent searches, and BDEC transactions as decision notifications.  LFIS searches shall comply with EFS Profile 0 and LFFS searches shall comply at a minimum with the EFS Profile 2 as defined in EFS Profile Specification 1.0 (or later); other profiles may optionally be implemented. These capabilities shall be demonstrated at delivery. These transactions shall be implemented for latent fingerprints; implementation for palmprints, extreme fingertips, or lower joints of the fingers is optional.

Conformant latent print workstation software shall be capable of 1) importing LFFS latent feature searches conformant with LITS without loss of defined features; and 2) exporting LFFS latent feature searches conformant with LITS without loss of defined features. Such import and export functions shall be incorporated into the software and not rely on use of the FBI’s Universal Latent Workstation software for translation. Note that LITS is a peer of the FBI’s EBTS 9.3, and therefore the exported LFIS and LFFS files will be capable of being directly searched against the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system (when latent services are available in early 2013).

Suggested RFP Response Requirements: The vendor is requested to provide a brief description of the proposed implementation of LITS which address the following:

  1. Which EFS Profile(s) in proposed system will be implemented for daily latent print operations on the proposed AFIS
  2. Which EFS Profile(s) will be implemented for searches of Next Generation Identification
  3. How will EFS be used in the conversion of UL File
  4. How will the selection of the proposed profiles be implemented for cross-jurisdictional searches
  5. How will the implemented EFS Profile(s) be tested for accuracy as part of the for Factory Acceptance Test (FAT)
Latent Print Interoperability – State and Local Perspectives

This report summarizes the findings from interviews with select state and local law enforcement officials regarding the issues of latent fingerprint interoperability. Interoperability in this context is understood to be "the ability of two or more Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems networks, systems, devices, applications or components to exchange information between them and to use the information so exchanged correctly and with minimal loss of accuracy."

Major findings include: 

  • A uniform interest to "Enter Once, Search Many"
  • Interest in selective searching of nearby locales
  • States are interested in state-to-state searches
  • A few interoperable arrangements already exist
  • Not all records are forwarded to State AFIS and Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)/Next Generation Identification (NGI)
  • Lack of personnel is a growing concern
  • The processes and re-encoding of features necessary to search multiple systems (i.e. IAFIS, state, and local) are time-consuming and cumbersome
  • Lack of funding limits expanded search opportunities
  • Considerations for ways to best conduct latent print searches

Final draft: Case Studies Final Report v1.1, 02 April 2012

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the Noblis AFIS Interoperability team:

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