NGI Officially Replaces IAFIS—Yields More Search Options and Investigative Leads, and Increased Identification Accuracy

October 24, 2014
Originally published in the October 2014 edition of the CJIS Link, Volume 16, Number 2

The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) served law enforcement well by processing volumes of fingerprint submissions that far exceeded its design. However, growing demands for biometric services, advances in technology, and expanding customer requirements drove the FBI to build its largest information technology system ever, the Next Generation Identification (NGI). From its inception, the NGI was slated for implementation in seven increments over seven years at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. With five increments deployed, the rollout of another increment on September 7, 2014, marked the official deployment of the NGI and the decommissioning of the IAFIS. To date, NGI Program initiatives are on scope, on schedule, and slightly below cost.

When the IAFIS became operational in July 1999 with a price tag of $640 million, it transformed the processing of fingerprint search requests. Through the IAFIS, what used to take fingerprint examiners up to 3 months to manually search, identify, and verify could be accomplished within 2 hours for criminal inquiries and within 24 hours for civil inquiries. IAFIS capabilities included automated tenprint and latent fingerprint searches, electronic image storage, and electronic exchanges of fingerprints and responses, as well as text-based searches based on descriptive information. With the world’s largest collection of digital fingerprint images and criminal history information (more than 77 million records), the IAFIS established a firm foundation for the FBI’s biometric technologies. To build on that foundation, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division—with guidance from the CJIS Advisory Policy Board, the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council, and the national criminal justice user community—established the NGI Program.

The FBI’s CJIS Division has already implemented NGI Increments 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, leaving only Increment 6 to follow. This summer, when the CJIS Division deployed Increment 4, the NGI replaced the legacy IAFIS workflow and infrastructure. New capabilities in Increment 4 include a national Rap Back service; the Interstate Photo System; text-based searches for images of scars, marks, and tattoos; fingerprint verification services; more complete and accurate identity records; and enhancements to the biometric identification repository. With the new capabilities in Increment 4, the total NGI system is at full operational capability, leaving only a technical refresh for Increment 6, the final phase.

Increment 4 Capabilities and Functionality

National Rap Back Service. Rap Back is a subscription service in which enrolled, authorized agencies are notified of criminal activity involving individuals working with vulnerable populations, persons serving in positions of trust, and persons under criminal justice supervision. Insight gained from a short-term pilot has helped the FBI improve the service as initially developed in order to expand it on a national scale.

Facial Recognition. Although the IAFIS can accept mug shots with criminal tenprint submissions, those photographs are made available with the associated records only when the subject is identified via a fingerprint. With NGI’s facial recognition technology, however, facial images obtained in support of an authorized criminal justice purpose can be searched against mug shots stored in the NGI. With Increment 4, the NGI image repository includes not only mug shots attached to criminal tenprint submissions, but also those submitted with civil fingerprints (when the submitting agencies request the photos’ retention), bulk photo submissions, and those added to previously submitted arrest data. Though the NGI facial recognition system does not provide positive identification, it does provide ranked candidate lists as “investigative leads” to authorized agencies. In addition, Increment 4 provides the ability to return a photo of an individual whose record is a hit within the response to an officer’s inquiry from a mobile-ID device.

See What Law Enforcement Agencies are Already Saying About the NGI

"Our first search with NGI resulted in arrest warrants for two individuals out of New York for an unsolved home invasion in Connecticut. If not for NGI, this case would still be unsolved."

- Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection

"NGI--a workhorse in latent print identification!"

- Internal Revenue Service National Forensic Laboratory

What could your agency's NGI success story be?

NGI, Piece by Piece

Providing an arsenal of biometric identification and investigative services, the NGI is improving interoperability among local, state, tribal, federal, and international law enforcement systems.

As each increment is implemented, it expands the framework of core capabilities for storing and searching multiple modes of biometric records.

Increment 0, Advanced Technology Workstations, completed March 2010. The NGI acquired technologically enhanced workstations with large, high-definition screens for use by FBI fingerprint examiners. The examiners’ ease of use of the workstations significantly increased their efficiency and effectiveness.

Increment 1, Advanced Fingerprint Identification Technology (AFIT), completed February 25, 2011. The AFIT replaced the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) segment of the IAFIS. With advanced matching algorithms, the AFIT increased identification performance and machine matching accuracy from 92 percent to more than 99 percent. This reduced the dependency on supplemental name checks and manual fingerprint verification, resulting in a 90 percent decrease in manual fingerprint reviews. Response times dropped even further—from 2 hours for criminal inquiries and 24 hours for civil inquiries to 1 hour and 12 hours, respectively.

Increment 2, Repository for Individuals of Special Concern (RISC), completed August 25, 2011. The NGI RISC rapid search service offers law enforcement officers using a mobile fingerprint device access to a national repository of data for wanted individuals and those with warrants, convicted sex offenders, and known or suspected terrorists (approximately 2.5 million sets of fingerprints in all). Once an officer submits the fingerprints of an encountered individual via the mobile device, the NGI responds in less than 10 seconds, providing the officer with critical information to quickly assess the potential threat of that person. Currently, 21 states and 1 federal agency are participating in this national service, accounting for more than 2,000 transactions per day with a response time of less than 5 seconds and an average hit rate of 3 to 6 percent.

Increment 3, Latent and Palm Prints, Rapid Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Response, and Full Infrastructure, completed May 5, 2013. Thanks to a new powerful matching algorithm, latent print searches are three times more accurate than searches performed using the old IAFIS algorithm. In addition to improving accuracy, the NGI expanded latent searches of the Criminal Master File to include the Civil Repository and the Unsolved Latent File (ULF). The NGI also expanded searches of the ULF to allow for criminal, civil, and investigative biometrics to search against unsolved latent prints, which has resulted in new investigative leads.

Increment 3 also implemented the use of palm prints as an additional friction ridge-based search. It provided authorized agencies with the capability to submit palm prints with their criminal fingerprint submissions, which the NGI stores in the National Palm Print System (NPPS). The capability to search latent palm prints against a national repository has also increased investigative opportunities.

Increment 4 (previously discussed) was deployed on September 7, 2014. This key increment moved the functionality of NGI to the customers.

Increment 5, Iris Pilot (IP), initiated in September 2013, ahead of schedule. Through the IP, the FBI began building a criminal iris repository, allowing the submission of search images and providing responses to those searches using an iris matching functionality. It provides the opportunity to assess best practices for iris image capture, iris camera specification requirements, specifications for iris image compression, and a review of new and existing iris image quality metrics. The IP allows for the evaluation of the technology in an operational setting to determine its suitability for law enforcement’s application nationwide.

Increment 6, Technology Refreshment, scheduled for Fall 2014. Increment 6 will consist of a technology refreshment study, followed by the gradual replacement of biometric hardware.

Participation in the NGI

The CJIS Division’s NGI Program Office continues to work with local, state, tribal, federal, and selected international law enforcement agencies interested in taking advantage of the new services the NGI offers. The office provides outreach support and state points of contact for planning and implementation of the NGI. Documents, such as the RISC Implementation Guide, are available to help educate potential users, and technical requirements are outlined in the Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS), version 10.0, which is available at


Building on the success of the IAFIS, the NGI is taking the FBI’s biometric identification services and criminal history information to the next level. By incorporating rapidly advancing identification technologies, the NGI is poised to better address the emerging needs of law enforcement, national security, homeland protection, and civil users.

For more information about NGI, visit, or contact the NGI Program Office via e-mail at or call (304) 625-3437.