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Sheriffs will use iris technology to solve missing person cases
By Joseph R. LaPlante, Standard-Times staff writer

PLYMOUTH -- "The eyes are the window to the soul," as the saying goes, but a new technology is making them your calling card, as well.
Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald is using Iris Recognition Biometric Technology to create a database of pictures of eyes that police can use to identify missing children and adults.
"My fellow sheriffs and I will be the first in the nation to utilize this exciting new technology," Mr. McDonald said.
Mr. McDonald is joined by the sheriffs in three other counties -- Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket -- in establishing the nation's first regional application of The Children's Identification and Location Database (CHILD Project).
The iris reader, obtained via grants and shared among the participating counties, is getting its first use in Massachusetts through Sunday at the Marshfield Fair, where Sheriff McDonald has set up a CHILD Project station.
Anyone is eligible to participate at no cost, said Kevin O'Reilly of CHILD Project LLC of Plymouth.
The reader's reliability is based on the fact that iris patterns remain the same for life after one year of age, giving new meaning to the adage "The eyes never lie."
Unlike fingerprint, voice, facial or photo ID card programs, data obtained using the Iris Recognition System will never become obsolete, its backers assert.
Unlike fingerprint readers, iris identification is non-invasive and the authentication system does not require any physical contact. The benefits are twofold: wear and tear on the equipment is reduced, and contamination issues for participants are eliminated, according to a review of the technology found at CEPro Community (
The iris reader features an embedded processor with real-time operation for added reliability versus PC-driven biometrics devices. The units can also be used in a systems configuration or standalone, according to the Web site.
The system is compliant with worldwide safety standards, the review said.
Installations are scheduled this month in Las Vegas, Tallahassee, Fla., and Oakland, Calif. Another 1,200 sheriffs are expressing interest in the system, according to CHILD Project.
The four Massachusetts sheriffs asserted that the new technology is a welcome tool. U.S. Justice Department studies report, on average, that more than 2,000 children are reported missing every day and police are handling 47,000 open cases for missing adults.
"It is my hope that over the coming years every sheriff in the nation will have one of these systems at their disposal to help identify, locate and reunite missing individuals with their families," said Sheriff James Cummings of Barnstable County.
This is how it works:
The CHILD Project employs a Panasonic BM-ET330 Iris Reader to capture a detailed image of both irises of an individual. The system's enrollment and authentication software, developed by Iridian Technologies Inc., makes a template or "map" of each person's iris pattern and stores it in the CHILD Project's national database and onto a card that can be kept with the child's family or guardian. To verify identity, an individual simply looks into an iris reader and the system compares the person's iris pattern image with iris images stored in the system. If there's a match, the identity is verified.
The database was introduced in May, which is designated as "National Missing Children's Month."
The CHILD Project is a secure, nationwide network and registry enabling law enforcement and social service agencies to positively identify missing children and adults using iris recognition systems from Panasonic Security Systems, the company said.
The Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults, a nonprofit agency providing nationwide assistance to law enforcement and families of missing persons, will host the database at its headquarters in Phoenix.

This story appeared on Page A1 of The Standard-Times on August 26, 2005.
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