PC Magazine: Massachusetts Police Using iPhones to ID Perps

Could identifying criminals be as easy as holding up an iPhone, snapping a quick pic, and waiting for results? It sounds like a cross between a science-fiction fantasy and a silly joke, but the concept is no laughing matter for officers in the gang unit over in Brockton, Massachusetts.

The city's officers are currently testing a new biometric scanning program--really, an iPhone app--that allows them to use Apple's handheld devices to snap a quick picture of a person's face. The photo is then sent over to a secure network for processing and, if the facial characteristics of a subject give him or her away, the person's identity, photo, and background information are sent back to the officer's iPhone.

If successful, the pilot program--dubbed MORIS, or Mobile Offender Recognition and Identification System--will expand to 28 different Massachusetts police departments and 14 sheriff's departments. While the app can only identify people based on a full facial shot right now, the developer BIT Technologies is looking to throw in iris and fingerprint scanning at some point down the line.

"The need and demand for the capability provided by MORIS is overwhelming," said BI2 Technologies CEO Sean Mullin in an interview with the Daily Mail. "It is not an overstatement to say that this may be the most significant technological advance for law enforcement since the introduction of radios. It's that significant."

BI2 Technologies worked with Animetrics, a New Hampshire-based company, to give the app the ability to transform a 2D image into a three-dimensional face. This increases the analytical power of the application and corresponding database to make matches, but it doesn't come cheap. According to the Patriot Ledger, the combination of iPhone and software costs roughly $3,000 per.

And, no, there's no indication that you'll be able to find a free version of MORIS on the App Store anytime soon.

By: David Murphy