The Security Industry Association (SIA) and SecureIDNews have selected five distinguished biometrics and security experts as the 2020 winners of the Women in Biometrics Awards – a globally recognised program co-founded by SIA and SecureIDNews and co-presented with sponsors IDEMIA, Biometric Update and the SIA Women in Security Forum.

The honourees will be recognised during the 2020 SIA GovSummit, SIA’s annual government security conference, which will be hosted as a free virtual event June 1-4. On June 3 at 1 p.m. EDT, attendees will enjoy a special keynote panel session honouring the award winners – The Women in Biometrics Awards Presents the Future of Biometrics in Government Security Applications.

Biometric exit solutions

The Women in Biometrics Awards honour the efforts of top female experts helping drive the biometric identity and security industry. Nominees and past winners include those working for biometric companies, peripheral suppliers, system integrators, academia, government and security and IT departments at a variety of organisations in the United States and internationally.

The 2020 winners of the Women in Biometrics Awards are:

  • Jeni Best, Branch Chief, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)

Jeni Best has extensive programme management experience running large-scale programmes and working with external stakeholders, exemplified in her work on CBP’s Biometric Exit Program as well as in developing and implementing Automated Passport Control and Mobile Passport Control. Leading the CBP charge in implementing biometrics at airport touchpoints, Best has operationalised CBP biometric exit solutions at 27 U.S. airports and 2 international locations.

Biometric mandate

For much of 2019, she served as the acting director of biometric air exit operations at CBP

Best contributed to the development of CBP’s exit roll-out strategy, which leverages stakeholder engagement and partnerships to achieve CBP’s biometric mandate. For much of 2019, she served as the acting director of biometric air exit operations at CBP – often referred to as “biometric boarding.” Best has over 20 years of experience with CBP and its predecessor agencies working on issues related to immigration, travel and tourism, business transformation initiatives and biometrics.

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Sam Houston State University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University.

Records management systems

  • Anne May, Biometric Support Centre Lead, Identity Operations Division, Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Anne May has 25 years of programme management experience in the public sector, including 17 years of experience with biometric technologies. She began her government career with the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), where she was the programme manager for large-scale records management systems and also served as biometrics portfolio manager, overseeing budget and system business operations for the INS biometrics programme.

Specialised biometric hardware

Anne has excelled in her leadership and dedication filling multiple critical roles as an irreplaceable subject matter expert

May has worked at US-VISIT since its inception in 2003, managing the implementation of multi-year, multi-agency projects and responsible for the deployment of specialised biometric hardware to over 550 border patrol and immigration enforcement field sites. After over a decade of service to the OBIM, Anne has excelled in her leadership and dedication filling multiple critical roles as an irreplaceable subject matter expert in the field of biometrics.

Anne is the lead manager for the DHS 24/7 Biometric Support Centre, an integral piece of the identity mission for worldwide U.S. government missions. She has also applied her expertise in support of building the next-generation DHS biometric system, Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology.

Face recognition evaluation

  • Mei Ngan, Computer Scientist, Image Group, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Mei Ngan is a scientist in the NIST Image Group, which develops standards, measurement methods and best practices for biometric technologies, promoting accuracy and interoperability and the gold standard for biometric testing and evaluation worldwide.

She is an accomplished computer scientist who has produced creative and outstanding work in the fields of face morphing detection, tattoo recognition and face recognition evaluation providing the needed science and framework to underpin the successful measurement and assessment of technologies for operational viability.

Face morphing detection

Ngan led the NIST project supporting the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity Janus programme

Ngan is the project lead for the NIST Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) MORPH programme – an ongoing project focused on evaluation of automated face morphing detection capabilities – and has become an integral part of the FRVT activities at NIST. In 2014, she launched the Tattoo Recognition Technology Program, the first NIST programme to provide a measurement and testing foundation to support the operational needs and applications for image-based tattoo recognition.

Ngan has also led the NIST project supporting the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity Janus programme, targeting the development of advanced face recognition algorithms for unconstrained images.

Terrorism detection capabilities

  • Lauren Reed, Senior Program Director for Biometric Forensics, IDEMIA National Security Solutions (NSS)

In her role at IDEMIA NSS, Lauren Reed leads the deployment of large-scale multimodal biometric systems to U.S. government foreign partners, enabling them to advance their crime and terrorism detection capabilities.

She has been working in biometrics and forensics for more than 20 years; prior to joining IDEMIA NSS, she was the first woman to serve as director of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory at the Defence Forensic Science Centre, which provides forensic and biometric laboratory services in seven scientific disciplines to the military criminal investigative agencies of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) globally.

Multi-modal biometric examination

She was instrumental in standing up multi-modal biometric examination operations for the DOD

Reed also previously served as the first chief of the Biometric Examination Services Branch for the Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where she was instrumental in standing up multi-modal biometric examination operations for the DOD’s Automated Biometric Identification System with expansion of services to include face and iris in addition to fingerprints.

In 2012, she received the FBI Director’s Award for Exceptional Public Service for leading a latent print sharing initiative between the DOD, FBI and DHS resulting in more than 500 identifications associated with terrorist and national security cases. Reed holds a Bachelor of Science from Washington State University, a Master of Forensic Science from National University and an executive MBA degree from Kennesaw State University.

Seamless airport implementation

  • Annet Steenbergen, Co-Founder, Aruba Happy Flow Project

Annet Steenbergen is a visionary Dutch national who is well respected in the U.S. and internationally as the co-founder/initiator of the Aruba Happy Flow project for the government of Aruba, the first seamless airport implementation of its kind in the world, a single-token initiative that creates a seamless flow of passenger facilitation from curb to gate through the reuse of biometrics and advanced cooperation between the public and the private sector.

Steenbergen took stakeholder cooperation to a new level between the governments of Aruba and the Netherlands, KLM Airlines, the Aruba Airport Authority and the biometric vendor to provide biometric-based security while substantially enhancing the passenger experience and creating room for expansion of Happy Flow to other airlines and countries.

Seamless travel solutions

She holds a master’s degree from Leiden University and has also studied at University College London

She has more than 20 years of international experience working in the field of border control, border management and public-private cooperation at airports, previously holding roles with the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service at Schipol Airport and at headquarters in the policy department for border management.

Besides her work for the government of Aruba, Steenbergen is a consultant on passenger facilitation innovation with a strong focus on seamless travel solutions, where biometrics are used as a baseline for facilitation, security and GDPR-compliant privacy, or “privacy by design.” She holds a master’s degree from Leiden University and has also studied at University College London, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the University of the Witwatersrand.

Enhancing cutting-edge fields

“Each year, the Women in Biometrics Awards recognise the best and brightest talent helping to advance biometrics technologies, which are essential to securing identities today, and the achievements of these female industry leaders are improving processes like air travel, enhancing cutting-edge fields like facial recognition and working to keep people safe,” said SIA CEO Don Erickson.

“SIA applauds the 2020 honourees for their impressive dedication, innovation and leadership in this critical technology market and looks forward to honouring this outstanding group during SIA GovSummit.”

Private industry technologists

The 2020 class of Women in Biometrics Award winners astound me with their contributions to the security industry"

“Once again, the 2020 class of Women in Biometrics Award winners astound me with their contributions to the security industry and society in general,” said Chris Corum, editor and publisher, SecureIDNews. “Their collective work keeps international borders secure, fights terrorism, aids law enforcement and makes our daily lives safer and more convenient.”

SIA GovSummit – the annual government security conference hosted by SIA – brings together government security experts and private industry technologists for top-quality information sharing and education on security topics affecting federal, state and even local agencies.

Facial recognition technology

Attendees will hear keynote presentations from Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.); Brian Harrell, Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security at DHS’ Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA); Daryle Hernandez, Chief of the Interagency Security Committee within DHS CISA; and Kathleen McGuiness, Auditor of Accounts for the State of Delaware. Additionally, GovSummit 2020 will feature specialised sessions on cutting-edge topics such as emerging applications of facial recognition technology, trends in federal procurement of security products and services, drones and counter-UAS technology, fever detection and camera technology in pandemic recovery and using robotics in security operations.

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Thermal cameras and smart cities: Preventing COVID-19 in public places
Thermal cameras and smart cities: Preventing COVID-19 in public places

With the pandemic still in full swing and no certainty as to when exactly it will come to an end, the world has been battling anxiety for months now. And with each day, circumstances change quickly and almost make it impossible to predict what will happen next, how events will unfold, and what actions to take in light of a new situation. But one thing is certain: the world has been shut down and paralysed for way too long, and the eventual reopening is unavoidable – in fact, it’s well under way. In this situation, what is possible to control is how the world will continue reopening – and specifically, how to ensure the safest possible reopening that will ensure the return of some degree of normalcy to people’s lives and business operations, while also managing the risk of COVID’s spread in the most efficient way. Our highly digitised, technologically advanced world This is when the power of technology comes to rescue the day: what truly sets the global crisis we face today apart from other calamities that humanity has encountered over year is the fact that it has developed in a highly digitised, technologically advanced world where each day brings about innovations with a sole purpose to make daily life and operations easier and more streamlined. And among these, the star of the past decade has been artificial intelligence. The world has been shut down and paralysed for way too long, and the eventual reopening is unavoidable – in fact, it’s well under way While AI has many avenues of introducing efficiency and fast problem-solving, there is one specific application that will further fuel the reopening of the world and successfully keep the spread of the virus abate. This “collaborative security” application includes a synthesis of smart video analytics, facial recognition, object identification/detection, and thermal cameras that can support the reopening of businesses globally when installed within those facilities frequented by customers. With such a level of sophistication that can ensure uninterrupted monitoring and analysis of large public spaces, these AI technologies can ideally operate best as cloud solutions to ensure a collaborative network with maximum scalability and widespread implementation. As these technologies increase in ubiquity and find their way into daily operations of businesses globally, the cost of the smart solutions will decrease proportionally to the growth of their reach. There are some highly specific ways to create this collaborative network of interconnected safety tools in the current climate. Here are some applications that have been successful to date and will increase in usability in the foreseeable future, creating “smart cities” working together towards a safer, more secure world. Maintaining social distancing practices The most important step everyone around the world has taken to contribute to the effort of slowing the spread of the virus has been social distancing. A six-foot-distance has become a new social norm that has quickly been adopted globally and become a habit to people who are naturally used to being close to others and socialising without giving distance a second thought. The star of the past decade has been artificial intelligence So, it is natural that such distancing measures take time to get accustomed to – and it is also natural that individuals may forget about them from time to time. To help maintain the six-foot distance between people at all times and give them slight nudges to keep the rule top of their minds, AI video technology can be trained to estimate the distance between individuals in public and commercial areas and identify the cases in which people get too close to each other. By notifying local merchants or authorities about such cases, the system can help ensure the safety of everyone in the area at all times while positively reinforcing the public to gradually get more accustomed to maintaining the distance and thus helping stop the spread of the virus. Detecting the virus through facial recognition Perhaps the straightforward application of such high-level technology is using video surveillance to identify persons of interest who have tested positive for the virus. Modern AI has the ability to identify facial features and characteristics with a unique level of granularity, making it possible to identify individuals whose records show they have antibodies from those who can be potential carriers of the virus. After the initial differentiation and identification, the system can then notify the employers and employees of the facility about the results of the conducted analysis and the pursuant results, allowing them to be more vigilant and take action where necessary to ensure a safe experience for everyone. PPE reinforcement Wearing a mask or some sort of face coverage in public spaces and especially within facilities (such as stores, for instance) has been - and will continue to be - a requirement for maintaining a safe and healthy environment for people to continue with their day-to-day lives and businesses to resume regular operations. To this extent, the object detection and identification abilities of smart cameras can further reinforce this requirement and ensure that the absence of protective equipment doesn’t go unnoticed.  Essentially, these cameras can easily identify if an individual has coverage at any given point of time or not, notifying the local authorities about any risks immediately and helping them maintain necessary safety measures without having to interrupt their workflow or worry about missing a visitor without a mask. Detecting high temperature One of the key (and the most widespread) symptoms of COVID-19 is a high fever - a certain indicator of whether an individual may have been infected with the virus or not. While identifying fever with a regular human eye is nearly impossible, AI can do so at a fraction of time by quickly scanning body temperatures of any incoming individuals and determine whether it’s above CDC’s recommended temperature of 100.4F in order to determine the risk factor and notify the local authorities to take action. Modern AI has the ability to identify facial features and characteristics with a unique level of granularity This technology is a good tactic to objectively assess potential risks that come with elevated temperatures - and sometimes, the people themselves might not realise they might (unconsciously) be carriers of the virus and thus endanger the safety of others in their vicinity. The technology is yet another step towards ensuring a safer reopening of the global economy and a more streamlined way of getting back on track while minimising the risk of spreading the virus further. It’s not all about the theory  We have tested the described approaches in our own R&D campus in Europe. The latest release of the IREX cloud enables remote fever detection and monitoring of social isolation and mask policies with AI. We have integrated thermal cameras to detect people with elevated temperature and CCTV cameras for identification and notifying those who potentially ill. In case of any health threat, the venue manager gets an instant message with a picture and exact location. These preventive steps helped our employees return to the office months earlier than it's happening in other countries. Moreover, personnel coming back to the office by their own wish as now they feel a virus-free environment in the campus - even safer than in their own homes. Now we are launching a pilot project for a well-known pharmacy chain in Florida, USA. With the help of a Computer Vision platform, staff will be able to divide customer traffic into those with normal body temperature and those who come in with elevated temperatures, as well as effectively monitor social distance norms. The goal of our potential client is to maximise the safety of customers in the post-pandemic period. Also, IREX is already deployed across hundreds of locations in the UK and will add health monitoring capability soon.

Why cloud-enabled physical security must be part of your long-term digital strategy
Why cloud-enabled physical security must be part of your long-term digital strategy

COVID-19 and the resultant lockdown saw an unprecedented demand for cloud-enabled technologies across Europe. Such services enabled people to stay connected and allowed some businesses to relocate personnel and continue to operate successfully. With enterprise-focused video conferencing mobile app downloads showing a weekly 90% increase in comparison to pre-COVID-19 figures, it’s clear that cloud services have proven invaluable in these challenging times. Now, as the benefits to business of cloud technology become apparent, and the grip of COVID-19 begins to loosen, senior decision makers must consider the learnings from the past few months and look to apply them to boost productivity, streamline costs or become more agile in the long term. Digital transformation presents some enticing advantages for those companies that have been slow to adapt. The physical security industry, traditionally video surveillance cameras (CCTV) and access control, will have witnessed how cloud infrastructure is not only cost effective and safe, but is a force multiplier for connecting platforms, services and people with potent business benefits. The future is VSaaS and ACaaS In today’s modern, connected world, dated technologies are giving way to their cloud-enabled successors, video surveillance as-a-service (VSaaS) and access control as-a-service (ACaaS). In this context, cameras and readers are added to a network as IoT devices that bring security systems up to date and represent a vital component in any modern, cyber-secure digital strategy. Frictionless access control has meant touch free access to buildings But better security is just one benefit of a much greater system that can bring real value. Built in analytics, for example, that utilise the data from network video cameras and smart access control devices, produce valuable business insights that help to inform and automate decision making. In the recent pandemic, frictionless access control has meant touch free access to buildings; while occupancy tools have helped retailers adhere to strict government guidelines on social distancing. And as more security equipment becomes connected to the wider IT network, the advantages have not been lost on the IT industry that is expressing more than a passing interest in the adoption and management of such systems. Morphean recently conducted a survey of 1000 IT decision makers across the UK and Europe, with the purpose of providing clarity around their security purchasing intent in the 2020s. Findings revealed that as many as 84% of IT managers are currently using or considering VSaaS or ACaaS systems, pointing to an appreciation of the convergence of physical security and IT security, and a willingness to embrace systems when integrated with IT in the cloud. An adaptable business model with recurring revenues Of course, it is not just the IT industry that is changing mindsets towards hosted physical security. As a result of COVID-19, end customers are demanding it too and found it easier to scale at speed when business circumstances changed. Rather than being tied to fixed IT infrastructure on premises, a hosted solution offered greater dexterity as operational challenges around the pandemic arose. Businesses were able to customise and scale quickly to meet ongoing need without the need for large upfront capital investment, instead, paying for the convenience as-a-service out of operational expenditure as a monthly cost. This is the proven business model of cloud, yet the security industry has been slow to adopt it. One key challenge is the way in which the prevalent business models in the sector operate. VSaaS is still alien to installers and integrators used to selling hardware on narrow margins, reliant on existing financial arrangements with distributors to fund new equipment. Transitioning to sales cycles based on monthly licences rather than up-front purchases won’t be easy, but the security channel must learn how if it is to remain competitive and drive new business opportunities. This recurring revenue model will be interesting for the physical security industry who will have witnessed uncertainty and, in some cases, a downturn in revenues as decisions around capital expenditure were put on hold during the crisis. Instead, convenient and recurring monthly payments will have put the installer on a firmer footing and guaranteed ongoing vendor support backed by the latest software updates and firmware upgrades to ensure delivery of a high quality service that’s always up to date and online. What is driving your digital strategy? VSaaS and ACaaS provide a flexible and fluid security and business solution Cloud is here to stay. Its resilience and ability to connect the world during the COVID-19 pandemic has proved its worth, even to the uninitiated who have now witnessed first-hand the value of connected systems. VSaaS and ACaaS provide a flexible and fluid security and business solution to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving industry, where the changing threat landscape means investing in the cloud is an investment towards success. CEOs and CIOs within the physical security reseller industry must learn the lessons and apply the learnings to drive their businesses forward in the ‘new normal’ where hosted security solutions must surely play a major part to expand their offering to a wiser customer base. Cloud-enabled physical security solutions represent an investment into improving security and operations, and a chance to forge new business relationships to face the challenges of an ever changing world.

Facial recognition: Contactless solutions for a safe, post-pandemic world
Facial recognition: Contactless solutions for a safe, post-pandemic world

Facial recognition technology has come a long way since it first came to market several years ago. Initially plagued with technical challenges and widely viewed as a futuristic solution, facial recognition is now firmly implanted in numerous consumer and business products and applications. New advancement in software, specifically in the areas of algorithms, neural networks and deep learning and/or artificial intelligence (AI), have all dramatically improved both the performance and accuracy of facial recognition, further expanding its use for an increasing number of applications. From a purely business perspective, facial recognition’s powerful identification and authentication capabilities make it ideal for two primary applications: first as a security tool, and second as a workforce management solution. The touchless, accurate credential solution Facial recognition readers meet the new emerging need to limit physical exposure to germs and viruses Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the touchless nature of facial recognition as an access credential was gaining traction with physical and cyber security professionals. By using an individual’s face as an access control credential, facial recognition eliminates the need and expense of physical cards and proximity devices, or the need to physically enter PIN codes. In addition, facial recognition readers meet the new emerging need to limit physical exposure to germs and viruses by offering a highly accurate touchless access control credentialing solution. As a workforce management tool, facial recognition helps preserve the health of employees checking into work, while providing management with an infallible means of documenting employee time and attendance while providing a detailed history of overall workforce activity and individual personnel tracking. Both of which have been longstanding challenges due to easily compromised time tracking systems and practices. Now, nothing is left to question based on hard data. With the growing popularity of facial recognition technology, there are many choices already available with more undoubtedly on the way. Selecting the right solution for your specific access control and/or workforce management application is dependent on a very wide range of variables. But there are a few core characteristics that you should look for when evaluating facial recognition readers. Wide and near-angle LEDs Most facial recognition terminals employ some form of IR (Infrared) technology to help ensure high visibility by the unit’s image sensor. This often limits where the unit can be installed such as outdoors or near windows due to strong ambient light. More advanced facial recognition readers employ as many as 80 wide-angle near infrared LEDs and 60 narrow-angle near infrared LEDs, allowing the unit to recognise faces even in full daylight and brightly lit environments (not direct sun). This enables installation at indoor locations near windows, lobbies and building entries. 3D pixel intensity distribution analysis Another facial recognition reader advancement to look for involves three-dimensional pixel intensity analysis. Ambient lighting contains ultraviolet rays which can negate near infrared LED lighting, and can also cast shadows making it difficult for a facial recognition reader to pinpoint the facial recognition points required for identification and authentication. Three-dimensional pixel intensity distribution analysis minimises the effects of ambient light when acquiring facial images by minimising lighting contrasts. As a result, it is easier for the algorithm to recognise the shape of the face, enabling it to extract more facial features and create higher quality face templates, which are critical for accurate facial recognition. Functional ergonomics This results in a faster, more comfortable, and convenient user experience The angle and position of a facial recognition reader directly impact the performance of the unit. Facial recognition readers with different viewing angles for built-in visual and infrared cameras allows users to stand at positions that are most suitable for facial recognition with little or no effort of contortions. This results in a faster, more comfortable, and convenient user experience. High performance processing Like any intelligent edge device, the performance of a facial recognition solution is directly reliant on its processing power. New advanced facial recognition readers deliver exceptional performance by employing enhanced face template extraction technology combined with powerful processor. For example, a facial recognition reader with a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor can perform up to 3,000 facial database matches (1:N) within one second. More advanced solutions also feature Group Matching functionality capable of executing up to 30,000 matches within one second. Live face detection It is most important that the facial recognition readers you evaluate are capable of analysing faces in real time to maintain fluid entry/egress even during high volumes of employee traffic. Hardware-dependent live face detection systems employing technologies such as facial thermogram recognition and facial vein recognition require expensive hardware components, provide less accurate matches and slower authentication performance, which is counterintuitive for mainstream access control and workforce management applications. Dual authentication for added security Although the use of an advanced facial recognition reader provides the convenience, health benefits and cost-savings of touchless identification and authentication, there are many applications where more than one credential may be necessary to ensure the highest levels of security. Advanced facial recognition readers with multimodal, multifactor credentialing capabilities provide this added security benefit. For example, facial recognition readers that support multiple RFID proximity devices supporting 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz provide varying degrees of protection and greater implementation versatility. Videophone or intercom capabilities Facial recognition readers with multifunctionality can solve several challenges with one solution Facial recognition readers with multifunctionality can solve several challenges with one solution. A perfect example includes devices with SIP (session initiation protocol) videophone capabilities which effectively eliminate the need and associated expense of  installing separate intercom devices while adding another layer of security to one’s facility. The COVID-19 pandemic, and hopefully soon to follow post-pandemic world, have surely accelerated the need for highly accurate, cost-efficient, and reliable facial recognition technologies to help get people back to work safely. Selecting the right facial recognition solution for your specific access control and/or workforce management is now more important than ever before, making a little extra due diligence during the evaluation process a smart decision.