Nikoui and Associates, Forensic Identification Services & Consulting, LLC Logo

Beyond the Print: The Evolution of Automated Fingerprint Identification

by Kourosh Nikoui | March 16, 2024 | AFIS/Biometrics

The Amazing Journey of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS)

In the world of forensic science and law enforcement, one of the biggest game-changers has been the development of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS). These advanced
systems have changed how Fingerprint Experts, Fingerprint Examiners, and Forensic Investigators analyze fingerprints, making the process much faster and more accurate. Let’s explore the fascinating history and evolution of AFIS technology.

The Birth of an Idea

The idea of automating fingerprint identification started in the mid-20th century because there was a growing need for faster and more efficient ways to process and analyze fingerprints. In
1969, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began creating the first AFIS prototype called the “Computerized Criminal History” (CCH) system. This early system was the first step toward developing more advanced fingerprint identification technology.

Pioneering Innovations

In the 1970s and 1980s, there were many important advancements in automated fingerprint identification, thanks to improvements in computer technology and image processing. Dr. Peter T. Higgins, a key figure in this field, did important research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 1986, he developed the first commercial AFIS system called the “Intelligent Multisensor Personal Identification System” (IMPIS). This system was much more accurate and capable than earlier ones, marking a big step forward for Fingerprint Analysts and Latent Print Examiners.

Key Companies in Early AFIS Development

Several companies played a major role in developing the early AFIS systems. NEC, Motorola, and PrintTrack were among the pioneers. NEC was one of the first companies to create a commercial AFIS, known for its accuracy and speed. Motorola also contributed significantly by developing systems that integrated fingerprint identification with other forms of biometric data. PrintTrack focused on making systems that were user-friendly and highly efficient for law enforcement agencies. These companies helped to shape the future of fingerprint identification technology.

Integration and Expansion

During the 1990s and early 2000s, AFIS technology continued to get better and better, with help from government and private organizations. Improved algorithms, faster computers, and the addition of biometric data like palm prints and facial recognition made AFIS even more powerful. These advancements helped AFIS become widely used by law enforcement agencies, border security, and other organizations around the world.

Modern Applications

Today, AFIS systems are very important in criminal investigations, border security, and civil identification programs worldwide. These systems help law enforcement quickly search and compare large fingerprint databases, making it easier to identify suspects and solve crimes. AFIS technology is also used for border control, immigration processing, and controlling access to secure facilities.


The invention and evolution of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems are an amazing part of the history of forensic science and technology. From their early days as experimental ideas to becoming crucial tools in modern law enforcement, AFIS systems have changed how we identify people and solve crimes. As technology keeps advancing, we can expect even more innovations in biometric identification, proving how important AFIS is in keeping people safe and ensuring justice.


  1. National Institute of Justice. “Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS)”. Retrieved from:
  2. FBI. “Biometric Services Section”. Retrieved from:
  3. NEC Corporation. “NEC Automated Fingerprint Identification System”. Retrieved from:
  4. Motorola Solutions. “History of Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems (AFIS)”. Retrieved from:
  5. Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Peter T. Higgins and the Development of AFIS”. Retrieved from:
Forensic Investigator and Certified Specialist Kourosh Nikoui, Principal Consultant and CEO of Nikoui & Associates, Forensic Identification Services & Consulting, Inc. (, has over 38 years of full-time experience in forensic science and criminal justice with various law enforcement agencies, government and private entities. Mr. Nikoui, a court-qualified expert, is a Certified Latent Print Examiner, Certified Senior Crime Scene Analyst, and Certified Forensic Photographer by the International Association for Identification ( He has testified as an expert witness over 150 times in California Superior and U.S. Federal Courts, processed evidence in over 30,000 criminal and civilian cases, and served as a consultant to numerous law enforcement agencies. Mr. Nikoui holds a BFA degree from USD and is an active member of multiple forensic science organizations. He can be reached directly by calling (866)439-6753 or by email at [email protected].
Forensic Identification Services & Consulting, LLC
Nikoui and Associates, Forensic Identification Services & Consulting, LLC |
37600 Central Ct Suite 205, Newark, CA 94560