One of the tasks that I used to perform as an employee of IDEMIA was to track the state-by-state status of livescan fingerprinting enrollment services. And I soon discovered that enrollment services differed substantially from IDEMIA’s other major product lines.
This post describes the nuances in livescan fingerprinting enrollment services, the many players that are involved, the livescan technology, and (most importantly) how enrollment service providers win business.
Why enrollment services differ from driver’s license and AFIS services
At IDEMIA, I tracked the company’s presence in three major product lines (and a slew of others). And IDEMIA’s presence in each market differed depending upon the nuances of the markets.
- For IDEMIA’s driver’s license services, there was only one provider for each state. Let’s face it, you can’t have two agencies issuing state driver’s licenses. (Although I guess this would satisfy someone’s libertarian fantasy.)
- For IDEMIA’s automated fingerprint identification systems (AFIS), there was only one provider of law enforcement AFIS in each state. However, there were other statewide fingerprinting systems back in the days when fingerprints were used for welfare benefits, and a number of county and city law enforcement agencies had their own AFIS systems.
- But for IDEMIA’s enrollment services, there could potentially be dozens or hundreds of small businesses that provided the service. All of this depended upon how the state authorized enrollment. In some states, only one private entity could provide enrollment services, while in some other states multiple private entities could do so.
Why we have enrollment services
So what are “enrollment services”? I’ll defer to my former employer IDEMIA and use the description from its IdentoGO website.
IdentoGO by IDEMIA provides a wide range of identity-related services with our primary service being the secure capture and transmission of electronic fingerprints for employment, certification, licensing and other verification purposes – in professional and convenient locations.
Of course IdentoGO isn’t the only “channeler” in town. A number of these small businesses that provide enrollment services are allied with Certifix Livescan, others with Thales (Gemalto), others with Fieldprint, others with Biometrics4All, and others with many other FBI-approved channelers.
And in some cases, you can go to your local police agency and have the police capture your fingerprints for enrollment purposes.
The channelers, and the hundreds upon hundreds of local businesses that are supported by them, handle some or all of a variety of fingerprint verification tasks, including (depending upon the individual state or Federal regulations) banking, education, firearm permits, health care, insurance, legal services, real estate, social services, state employment, transportation, and many others.
- The basic theory is that if you are, for example, applying for a banking position, your fingerprints are searched against the FBI’s fingerprint database to make sure you don’t have a prior fraud conviction.
- Or if you’re applying for an education position, you weren’t previously convicted of committing a crime at a school or with children.
- Or if you’re applying for a transportation position, those multiple drunk driving convictions may cause a problem.
You get the idea.
Who are the end enrollment service providers?
So who are these small business owners who offer these livescan fingerprinting enrollment services?
In most cases, enrollment services are an add-on to a small firm’s existing business.
- Maybe the business is a travel agency, and it offers fingerprinting along with other travel-related services (such as passport photos).
- Maybe the business is a tax preparation service.
- Maybe it’s an insurance agency.
So the business buys or leases a desktop livescan station, aligns with one of the major channelers, gets the necessary state approvals (in California, from the Office of the Attorney General), and waits for the applicants to…well, apply.
Livescan fingerprint capture isn’t idiot-proof, but if I can do it, you probably can also
“But wait,” you may say. “Isn’t the capture of fingerprints a specialized process requiring substantial forensic knowledge?”
While you do need to take care to capture fingerprints correctly, livescan systems have dramatically improved in quality, allowing a travel agent or insurance agent to capture high-quality prints.
(I’ll let you in on a little secret: even the law enforcement officers who capture livescan prints from criminals don’t necessarily have years of experience in fingerprint capture.)
As someone who has worked with livescan systems since the mid 1990s, I can attest to the dramatic improvements in livescan technology. I wasn’t around in the early 1990s when Printrak and Digital Biometrics partnered to provide an AFIS-compatible livescan, but I was certainly around when Printrak introduced its own livescan, the LiveScan Station 2000 (LSS 2000), that competed with Digital Biometrics, Identix, and other livescan providers. (Today, former competitors Digital Biometrics, Identix, and Printrak are all part of a single company, IDEMIA.) The LSS 2000 used a Printrak-manufactured capture device attached to a computer running Digital UNIX.
By the time I became a product manager (not for livescans, but for AFIS servers), Motorola introduced two new livescan devices, the LiveScan Station 3000U and the LiveScan Station 3000N. (The “U” stood for Unix, the “N” for the Windows NT family.) The capture device for these two workstations was manufactured by Heimann Biometric Systems, which through a series of subsequent mergers is now part of HID Global.
When you’re an employee of a fingerprinting company, you’re often asked to participate in fingerprint scanner tests. (At least you were in the days before GDPR and CCPA.) So the livescan engineers decided to compare the capture quality of the LSS 2000, the LSS 3000U, and the LSS 3000N. I joined several others in participating in the scanner tests.
But I ran into a problem.
At the time that I participated in this scanner test, I had been working with paper for about two decades, and as a result of this and other things I have very light fingerprints. This isn’t an issue if you’re using a subdermal fingerprint capture system (Lumidigm, one manufacturer of such systems, was also acquired by HID Global), but it’s definitely an issue with the average optical system.
Oh, and did I mention that we were capturing our OWN fingerprints as part of this test? Rather than getting a trainer or someone with law enforcement experience to take our prints, this motley assemblage of marketers and engineers was following the DIY route.
With the result that the fingerprints that I captured on the LSS 2000 were pretty much unusuable.
But the later generation LSS 3000 prints looked a lot better. (I believe that the LSS 3000N prints were the best, which heralded the last hurrah for UNIX workstations in the AFIS world, as Windows computers proved their ability to perform AFIS work.)
And of course time has not stood still since those experiments in the early 2000s. (Although you can still buy a LiveScan 3000N today, for the price of $1.00.)
Today you can buy livescan stations that capture prints at 1000 pixels per inch (ppi), 4 times the resolution of the 500 ppi stations that were prevalent in the 1990s and early 2000s. And frankly, that are still prevalent today; most law enforcement agencies see no need to buy the more expensive 1000 ppi stations, so 500 ppi stations still prevail.
So how does a customer select a livescan fingerprinting enrollment service provider?
So let’s say a customer is applying for a position at a bank or at a school or somewhere else that asks for a fingerprint check. In the state of California, there’s not just one place that you can go to get this service. For example, there are probably a dozen or more enrollment service providers within a few miles of Bredemarket’s corporate headquarters in Ontario.
So how does a customer select a livescan fingerprinting enrollment service provider?
Well, customers do so just like they do with any other business.
- Maybe they saw a picture of the IdentoGO RV and that caused “IdentoGO” to stick in their mind when searching for an enrollment service provider.
- Or maybe they’re driving down a street in the neighborhood and they see a sign that mentions “livescan fingerprinting.”
- Or maybe they’re on Facebook and see a page that promotes a specific livescan fingerprint enrollment service provider.
The key for the enrollment service provider, of course, is to make sure that your message stays top of customer’s mind when the time comes for the customer to need your service.
- Your message needs to appear where the customer will see it.
- Your message has to speak to the customer’s needs.
- And your message must explain how to obtain the service. Does the customer have to make an appointment? If so, how does the customer make the appointment?
If the customer never sees your message, it’s going to be a lot harder for the customer to use your business. While the California Office of the Attorney General does include a list of all of the authorized livescan fingerprinting providers in California, and all of the various channelers maintain their own lists, neither the Attorney General nor your friendly channeler is going to necessarily direct someone to YOUR business.
You need to let your customers know of your existence, and WHY your service BENEFITS them as opposed to the service down the street.
Bredemarket can help.
If you provide livescan fingerprinting enrollment services and need experienced and knowledgeable help in getting your message out to your customers, contact me: