Apr 19, 2011

Biometric Army

You’ve seen it done in movies a thousand times, the bad/good guy steals an identity badge and gains access to an installation and wreaks havoc/saves the day.  How can such a thing be stopped? Biometrics of course! And this is exactly what the Army thought as well.

Currently in use in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom is the Hand Held Interagency Identity Detection Equipment or HIIDE for short.  According to the Army this system is used for a lot of different uses and has given great results, and it better have seeing as the Army gave a $71 million dollar contract to the manufacturer.  
HIIDE in Action in Iraq
One example of how this program has helped was given by the Army and boy is it impressive.
Every day hundreds of people access U.S. military facilities; most are U.S. Army personnel, but some are employees of local contractors.  And before these employees can enter they are biometrically scanned for fingerprints, iris and facial recognition.  Today an employee comes to work as normal but one thing very different happens, he is detained for questioning instead of getting to work.  How did this happen? Let’s look back one day. 

The Army received intelligence of a suspected insurgent safe house that was immediately raided by a U.S. Army patrol.  All of the family members were evacuated and their fingerprints, irises, and faces were scanned using the HIIDE, while the house was searched.  Everything in the house appeared normal until the patrol discovered a hidden room with evidence of bomb making activity.  The family was questioned about it and everyone claimed they had no knowledge of the hidden room. 

Unfortunately for one of the “family” members, two sets of fingerprints were found in the hidden room and one belonged to one of the detained “family” members.  As soon as the insurgent was removed from the rest of the family, they tell the Army interrogators that two insurgents were using the room and threatened to kill them if they said anything.  And now one insurgent was in custody.  But what about the other one? Remember that employee that was detained?

Since the employee had access to a U.S. military facility, his fingerprints were in the database and were quickly matched with those scanned at the bomb making site and thus he was detained the next time he went to work. 

That is a major situation avoided by use of biometrics.  It’s great that the Army recognized the value of Biometrics and started using them to ensure the safety of their bases and installations.  

Quick side note: the site where I found the image states “Sgt. Nike Ferzacca is obtaining a retinal scan of an Iraqi.”  See anything wrong with that statement? I mentioned that the HIIDE has iris scanning not retinal scanning.  It is interesting to see that even on “The Official Homepage of the United States Army” they make a mistake between iris and retinal scanners.  The distinction between the two will be addressed in the future, so you never make the same mistake.


  1. That's awesome that the army is using it now. It seems that the employee would've been more careful since he knew that they had his scans. It is actually interesting that this hasn't been used before since it IS so easy (in the movies) to gain access to a card and a uniform. Do you know if this causes a hassle because of the time it takes? And do you know how accurate it is or whether it makes mistakes?

  2. I'm curious to see how much this is being used. When I go to Fort Carson, they rarely even ask for my ID. I guess they assume that since I'm with someone with a military ID that I'm not a threat, but it's not what I expect from a major military base.

  3. This is very interesting, very cool that this technology is in use. I wonder though, has it been responsible for any false accusations?

  4. @Michelle- This device is very fast, maybe about a minute for the iris and face scan and 15 seconds for the fingerprint scan. It is also accurate, it can make a mistake but the odds of that are very slim, I can't find the source right now but I saw that the amount of error on fingerprint scans was 1:5000, and if an error occurs they will scan again, reducing the overall error rate to an insignificant amount.

    @Cold Steel- According to the source, the biometric scanner is used quite extensively, but I have no way to prove or disprove that so who knows.

    @Dan- I am not sure, I could not find any accounts of false accusations (seeing as it is the Army), but I cannot say for sure.

  5. So the military is now using them. How long until cameras are placed in public for the local police to know where everyone is? Ever see Minority Report? What do you think, Carlos?

    Nice post. Cool story.

  6. $71 Million dollars.....I hope it works well. otherwise we are looking at just one other place where the government straight up throws money.

  7. I've heard it being used in the field and abroad, but not at domestic bases. I imagine the cost is too high and the risk fairly low for US bases.

    As always, I think we have to think about the nefarious uses for such technologies, as well. Big Brother stuff ;).