The challenge researchers often face is translating their success in the lab into the broader world so that society can benefit from their advances.

In the world of biometrics – the science of recognizing humans based on physical or behavorial traits – this transition is especially critical today as researchers are developing systems that government agencies can use in law enforcement, national security, defense and other applications.

In order to help accelerate that transition, the U.S. Department of Justice has awarded a $1 million grant to West Virginia University’s biometrics researchers.

The grant will be used by WVU’s Center for Identification Technology Research to create the Transition Readiness Assessment Center, which will – in collaboration with others – help translate the innovative technologies researchers are developing into real-world systems that government agencies can use in law enforcement, national security, defense and other applications.

“Our motivation to establish TRAC is driven by the critical need to help transition biometrics research into working government systems aimed at fighting crime and terrorism and enhancing our individual and collective security,” said Larry Hornak, the lead researcher on the project. “It builds on the long and impressive history CITeR has achieved of successful collaborative research in this important arena.”

Hornak is the founding director and current co-director of CITeR and a professor in WVU’s Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Bojan Cukic – CITeR’s other co-director and a professor in the same department – is the other lead WVU faculty member involved in the new project.

“This project will help cement WVU’s growing reputation as a world leader in identification technology, and I was pleased to support it with federal funding,” said Congressman Alan B. Mollohan, chair of the appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Justice who helped secure funding for the initiative.

“CITeR puts WVU – and a growing number of local technology-based firms – at the center of this exciting new industry.”

Biometrics involves the use of technology to identify individuals through automated recognition of unique physiological, behavioral and molecular traits, including fingerprints, iris patterns, face, voice, gait, keystroke patterns and DNA.

WVU is internationally recognized for its contributions in biometrics research and is the headquarters and lead institution of the CITeR, a National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center.

“This effort will bring scientists from the public and private sectors together with university research groups early in the innovation and discovery process to assess the transition readiness of biometrics technologies whose concepts have been proven through initial CITeR project results,” Hornak said. “The end result will be a seamless collaboration across academic, government, and industry, and therefore increased efficiency in transitioning these technologies into systems that serve the national interest.”

Initially, the project will focus on advancing the performance of existing biometric systems – including automated face, iris, fingerprint and voice recognition systems; developing systems that can seamlessly integrate a variety of biometric information; combining biometrics with other information, such as text or video, for improved identity analysis in surveillance applications; and reducing security risks due to system vulnerabilities, forgery and electronic theft.

CITeR currently has two sites—one at WVU, which is the founding and lead university, and the other at the University of Arizona. Several other universities are involved in the research as well. CITeR affiliates number more than 20 government and industry organizations, including the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, and a number of private companies and nonprofits.

—WVU—

11/13/09

CONTACT: Susan Case, College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304-293-4086, susan.case@mail.wvu.edu