Technology has come a long way in the last thirty years. So has biometrics and how law enforcement can match evidence to a database full of biometric data.  Now, using an automated biometric identification system (ABIS), law enforcement personnel use more descriptors than just a single system of fingerprints leveraged in an automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS). 

If you’re currently using an AFIS, when was the last time you considered the switch to an ABIS (if ever)? Is the AFIS still meeting your needs? Let’s explore the distinctions between the two. 

First, let’s take a step back and revisit what an AFIS is. AFIS stands for “Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which was created by the FBI in the 1980s. This early example of an ABIS supported only a single biometric modality. 

According to, “during a criminal investigation latent fingerprints located, developed, and recovered from a crime scene are compared with fingerprint records of known individuals. Latent fingerprints from unknown sources, whether left behind as complete or partial fingerprints, can be searched with today’s technology in automated, electronic systems called AFIS.” 

As the name suggests, the FBI would collect fingerprints from individuals suspected in criminal events and match them to a biometric database to solve a myriad of crimes.  

Fingerprint collection has been a time-tested method of identification based on the unique ridge patterns of the fingertip. “As a general matter, no two persons have been found to possess the exact same sets of fingerprints, and those fingerprints are persistent throughout one’s lifetime” via 

So, if AFIS does the job–why should you switch? 

While, an AFIS will help your department put the various fingerprint samples up against the entire database of individuals with a potential match, it is limited to fingerprints. Fingerprints have been proven effective, but technological advancements have enabled the use of more biometric characteristics. 

This is where an ABIS comes in. It has the same functions as an AFIS, but it can search multiple biometric identifiers beyond fingerprints—including iris and facial images. This can help law enforcement agencies match a potential suspect when fingerprints aren’t available 

AwareABIS has everything you need in an ABIS solution. The offering supports fingerprint, facial, and iris verification and recognition for large-scale identification, but also offers a complete family of ABIS products for any sized law enforcement community.  

For smaller scale needs, up to 2 million identities, the AFIX Tracker is perfect as an off-the-shelf solution. AwareABIS is best for database sizes 2 million to 30 million or more. And if you’re just looking for a plug-in to work with your existing system, Astra is poised to improve your workflows.   

Over the last 30 years the world has changed, including the way that law enforcement solves crimes. It started with AFIS–the earliest form of ABIS. As technology took off, so did ABIS and increasing ways that operations could identify an individual with unique identifiers (face, iris) and match to a biometric database. All in the effort to solve crimes, increase security, and keep the public safe. If you are on the fence about switching from an AFIS to an ABIS, make sure to consider the needs of your department to determine which one is right for you.  

To learn more, check out the AwareABIS webpage and request a demo to let us know how we can help you. 

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