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Police adopting iPhone-based facial-recognition device


Police in the U.S. may soon have a new mobile tool to aid in the identification of criminals. It's called MORIS, Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, and includes both a retinal scanner and camera to scan suspects from as far as five feet away. The system is powered by an iPhone which attaches to the device. When fully assembled, it weighs 12.5 ounces.

MORIS will replace conventional identification procedures which require an officer to take a picture, download it to a computer and run facial recognition software on the image. The new device does all this on the fly and in one relatively small package. It was create by BI2 Technologies, a small company from Plymouth, Mass, and uses facial recognition software from Conway, NH-based Animetrics.

Privacy advocates are leery of the device which can scan individuals from a distance possibly without their consent. Officers, though, view the technology as necessary. "If the purpose is to determine instantly an individual's identity and determine whether they are wanted or have serious criminal history, that is not only a desirable use, it is an important use," says Bernard Melekian, director of the COPS program. "To simply collect information on individuals to add to the database would not in my opinion be a desirable use of the technology."

The MORIS device is expected to launch commercially by the end of the year and cost US$3000 per unit.

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