Box 10-2

Working Toward AFIS Interoperability

As early as 1986, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Bureau of Standards (now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST) were working on ways to facilitate the exchange of finger print data. Their collaboration produced a standard defining minutiae data and both low- and high-resolution finger print images. The standard was not successful, however, because of conflicts with proprietary systems.

In 1993, ANSI and NIST teamed up again to create another finger print data standard, a standard later updated in 1997. It defined standards for minutiae data and low- and high-resolution finger print images in both binary and grayscale format, as well as methods for compressing and decompressing image data.

In the late 1990s, the International Association for Identification’s AFIS Committee successfully demonstrated a method of conducting remote finger print searches across jurisdictions and across equipment from different vendors.a

In 2003, the ANSI/NIST standard was updated again. It grew to include 16 record types in total, with the addition of standards for such things as palm print data and latent print data.b The standard was recently updated once more and has subsequently been approved by ANSI’s Board of Standards Review as an ANSI standard.c

The NIST-sponsored Minutiae Interoperability Exchange Test (MINEX) program is an ongoing series of coordinated development efforts aimed at improving the performance and interoperability of finger print minutiae standards. In 2004, the original project under took to determine the feasibility of using minutiae data (rather than image data) as the interchange medium for finger print information between different finger print matching systems.d


a The committee’s final report is available at


b For more information on the ANSI/NIST standards, see P. Komarinski. 2005. Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems. Boston: Elsevier Academic Press, pp. 162-166.


c This approved revision of the ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2000 standard is now available as NIST Special Publication 500-271: Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint, Facial, & Other Biometric Information-Part 1 (ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2007) at


d More information about the work of the MINEX series is available at


Despite the work done to date to achieve broader AFIS interoperability and its potential benefits (i.e., more crimes solved, quicker and more effi-

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