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What is a Live Scan? The Technology, Processes, and Applications

Biometric Post
Jun 15, 2023
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Biometric Post
What is a Live Scan? The Technology, Processes, and Applications

In today's fast-paced world, the need for effective, quick, and accurate identification processes is more important than ever. From employment to licensing to immigration purposes, confirming an individual's identity is a critical step. Enter Live Scan - a technology that has revolutionized the process of capturing fingerprints electronically, making the procedure as efficient as a flash and as sharp as a tack.

Live Scan fingerprinting, often associated with criminal history background checks, has moved fingerprinting light-years beyond the ink and card method. This system creates a digital blueprint of your unique swirls and whirls, transmitting this data with speed to the requesting agency. Gone are the days of mail delays and smudged ink; welcome to the era of instantaneous electronic submissions and pristine image quality.

In this comprehensive guide, we dive deep into the world of Live Scan. We'll shed light on the fascinating technology behind Live Scan, the seamless process it follows, and its expansive range of applications. So whether you are an individual looking for more information about Live Scan fingerprinting services or a provider keen to embrace the latest in digital identification, join us on this journey to uncover the future of fingerprinting – it's at your fingertips!"

What is Live Scan?

Live Scan is a digital fingerprinting process that captures an individual's unique fingerprints electronically. This fingerprint data is then electronically transmitted to a law enforcement agency or a designated requesting agency. This method eliminates the mess and hassle of traditional ink fingerprinting, providing a more accurate, efficient, and rapid method of obtaining essential data.

As a crucial component of the criminal history record background check process, Live Scan has become the go-to solution for law enforcement agencies and other bodies that require fast, reliable identification.

The Key Components of a Live Scan System

A Live Scan system comprises multiple components working in tandem to facilitate an efficient and precise process of capturing, processing, and transmitting fingerprint data. Each of these elements plays a critical role in the live scan process:

1) The Live Scan Fingerprinting Device:

Sitting at the forefront of the Live Scan system is the device that first touches your fingertips - the Live Scan fingerprinting device. It's designed to capture a variety of prints, from rolls to plain impressions, to 4-finger slaps, catering to the diverse needs of the Live Scan process. Moreover, some live scan fingerprinting devices come equipped with a liveness detection feature, ensuring the fingerprint being captured is from a live person, adding an extra layer of security to the process.


2) Live Scan Software:

This is the brain of the operation. It supervises every step from image capture to data transmission, ensuring smooth and flawless functioning. The software includes real-time image quality checks, which can troubleshoot potential issues like incomplete prints or misaligned finger placements. It also oversees the secure electronic transmission of the fingerprint data to the designated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) or Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).

3) Computer Workstation:

Acting as the command center of the Live Scan operation, the computer workstation, either a laptop or desktop, is where all the action happens. It's not just about data storage; it's about orchestrating the entire process, from guiding the user to managing the transmission of captured data.

4) Certified Live Scan Operator:

Behind every efficient live scan system is a certified operator. Trained in the system's operation and nuances, the live scan providers ensure accurate data capture, navigates the software, and manages the secure transfer of the data, all while providing guidance and reassurance to the person being fingerprinted.

Beyond the core elements of the Live Scan system, there are several add-on components that further enhance its capabilities. These extensions bring more depth and versatility to the identification process, complementing the primary functionalities.

5) Digital Camera:

The digital camera is used for capturing the applicant's photograph when required. It provides an additional layer of identification, especially important in certain applications like licensing or immigration.

6) Signature Pad:

This device captures the digital signature of the individual, which can be essential in formalizing documents or confirming the individual's consent in certain processes.

Each of these components plays a vital role in creating a Live Scan environment that is seamless, precise, and user-friendly. They work together to make the Live Scan process a model of modern efficiency and accuracy in the field of biometric identification.

A Brief History of Live Scan Fingerprinting: Moving from Ink to Pixels

Recognizing the instrumental roles played by the Live Scan system's components allows us to appreciate the sophistication of this technology fully. But, how did it evolve into its current form? The evolution of live scan technology over the years provides insights into the strides taken in the realm of fingerprint recognition processes.

Let's trace the route from the ink-and-paper beginnings to the current digital age of fingerprinting.

The Dawn of Fingerprinting

Fingerprinting as a means of identification has been around far longer than many realize. Ancient Babylonians used fingerprints on clay tablets for business transactions, and the Chinese used them on documents as early as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

However, it wasn't until the 19th century that the systematic study of fingerprints began. Sir Francis Galton, a British scientist and cousin of Charles Darwin, published a comprehensive study on fingerprints in 1892. His work laid the groundwork for the scientific understanding of fingerprints and their uniqueness.

Ink-and-Paper Era

The early 20th century saw the widespread adoption of fingerprinting by law enforcement agencies worldwide. But the process was messy, labor-intensive, and time-consuming, involving rolling fingers in ink and then onto a paper card.

Fingerprint cards would then be manually classified, filed, and searched in a system that required significant physical storage space. Not to mention, the quality of inked fingerprints varied greatly, often leading to inaccurate or unclear results.

On the Path to Automation: The Birth of AFIS

The late 1960s marked a significant shift in fingerprinting with the FBI's initiative to automate the fingerprint identification process, which had become exceedingly laborious and time-consuming. The National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) was contracted to explore the automation of fingerprint classification, searching, and matching.

By 1974, the FBI initiated the first Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), an innovative system that stored crucial points of a fingerprint, known as minutiae, as whole image storage was prohibitively expensive at the time.

The Emergence of Live Scan Technology

The development of fingerprint scanners followed in 1975, with the FBI funding the development of automated classifiers and minutiae extraction technology. This led to the birth of the first prototype reader, utilizing capacitive techniques for collecting fingerprint minutiae.

But while AFIS provided a technological leap, the capture of fingerprints was still an ink-and-paper task. This changed in the 1980s with the advent of the first Live Scan devices, although these early models were cumbersome and costly, making them inaccessible to many organizations.

As we moved into the 21st century, technological advancements made Live Scan systems more compact, affordable, and sophisticated. The large-scale computerized fingerprint identification system known as IAFIS, introduced by the FBI in 1999, became a pivotal development. Furthermore, live scan fingerprint devices have become more compact, affordable, and advanced. The accompanying software evolved as well, becoming more sophisticated to ensure greater accuracy and efficiency.

Today, Live Scan stands as the preferred method for fingerprint-based background checks. It's a testament to the quest for speedy, accurate, and efficient identity verification and identification that continues to serve law enforcement, employment agencies, and various other organizations.

The Ongoing Journey

As with any technology, Live Scan continues to evolve. Its journey from ink to pixels has redefined the way we approach identification processes and background checks. Yet, the potential for further development is endless, promising a future where accuracy, efficiency, and security continue to reach new heights in the world of biometric identification.

How Does Live Scan Fingerprinting Work?

We've gained a thorough understanding of the significant advances in this technology while navigating the evolution of Live Scan fingerprinting. Now that we've established the historical context for Live Scan, let's look at how it works in real-world scenarios.

What does the Live Scan process entail if you're an employer screening potential candidates, a professional seeking licensure, or an individual who's been asked to provide fingerprints for any reason? Let's break down the steps and explain what to expect during a Live Scan session.

1) Preparing for the Live Scan Session

The Live Scan process begins before you even reach the scanning device. The initial step involves filling out the appropriate Live Scan form that corresponds with the purpose of the fingerprinting session. This could be for employment screening, licensing, certification, or any other reason that requires a background check. The form typically includes fields for your personal details, contact information, and the Request for Live Scan fingerprinting service section, which will be completed by the Live Scan Operator.

2) The Live Scan Session

Once your form is complete and verified, the Certified Live Scan service operator guides you through the scanning process. Here's what a typical Live Scan session entails:

  1. Fingerprint Capture: Guided by the operator, you'll be asked to place your fingers on the live scan device's glass surface. Starting with both thumbs, you'll then move onto four-finger flat scans from each hand. After this, the operator will help you provide a nail-to-nail rolled scan of each finger. This all happens one finger at a time, enabling the device to capture high-resolution images of each fingerprint without ink, paper, or any mess.
  2. Additional Data Capture: If required, the operator may use additional devices to capture a digital photo and a digital signature. This adds another layer of identification for specific uses such as licensing or immigration purposes.
  3. Data Verification: After capturing the fingerprints, photo, and signature, the operator reviews the data for clarity and accuracy. If any issues are identified, such as unclear fingerprints or misaligned finger placements, the operator may ask you to repeat the process.

3) Transmitting the Data

With all necessary data captured and verified, the Live Scan Operator uses the specialized software to securely transmit the digital fingerprint data to the appropriate state or federal agency. This could be the Department of Justice (DOJ), the FBI, or other relevant bodies.

The whole process of live scan fingerprinting takes about 5 to 10 minutes.

4) Background Check and Results Delivery

Upon receipt of the electronic submission, the appropriate law enforcement agency conducts a background check. Once the background check is completed, the results are sent back electronically to the requesting agency. Depending on the state and agency involved, this process can take from a few minutes to several weeks.

The Live Scan process, with its combination of advanced technology and a certified operator, aims to make fingerprint-based background checks as quick, efficient, and user-friendly as possible. It illustrates how the technology has streamlined what was once a labor-intensive and slow process, improving accuracy and speed while ensuring the security of sensitive personal data. The evolution of Live Scan technology underscores our commitment to advancing identification processes, anticipating the ever-changing demands of the digital age.

Now that we've examined the Live Scan process's inner workings, it's clear how its precision, speed, and user-friendliness have transformed the traditional fingerprint-based background check. However, you may be wondering, "Why is Live Scan relevant to me?" To answer this question, let's look at the various applications and uses of Live Scan, as well as why this technology has become such an important tool in our digital life.

Why and Who Needs a Live Scan?

Live Scan technology is not exclusive to any specific group or profession; it permeates numerous industries and sectors, facilitating crucial background checks that help ensure security and trust. But who exactly needs this service, and what prompts this need? In this section, we will go over several scenarios in which Live Scan plays an important role.

1) Employment Background Checks:

Many employers, especially those in sensitive sectors such as healthcare, education, and law enforcement, require prospective employees to undergo Live Scan fingerprinting. This helps employers make informed hiring decisions, ensuring that individuals with certain criminal histories do not hold positions where they could pose a risk.

  • Public Safety Jobs: Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and similar roles often require a comprehensive background check, given the sensitive nature of the work involved.
  • Health Care Professionals: Those in healthcare, including nurses, doctors, caregivers, or home health aides, often undergo Live Scan fingerprinting as part of their licensing process.
  • Education Professionals: Teachers, tutors, school volunteers, and other educational staff members are usually required to have a background check for the safety of the children they interact with.
  • Financial Services: People working in roles related to finance, such as bankers, financial advisors, or insurance agents, may need to undergo background checks to ensure they can be trusted with sensitive financial information and transactions.

2) Professional Licensing and Certification:

In many professions, Live Scan fingerprinting is a critical part of the licensing or certification process. By verifying an individual's identity and examining their criminal history, regulatory bodies can uphold the integrity of the profession and maintain public trust.

  • Medical and Health Professionals: Doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners are usually required to undergo a background check as part of their licensing process. Similarly, therapists, counselors, and psychologists may also need to go through Live Scan fingerprinting.
  • Legal Professionals: Attorneys, legal consultants, and other professionals in the legal field often need to undergo a background check to ensure that they can be trusted with sensitive client information and legal responsibilities.
  • Real Estate Agents: Those involved in real estate, including agents and brokers, usually require background checks for licensing. This ensures that they can be trusted to handle large financial transactions and sensitive client information.
  • Educators: In addition to teachers and school staff, those involved in education at other levels, such as tutors or private instructors, may also need to undergo Live Scan fingerprinting for their certification process.

3) Volunteers Working with Vulnerable Populations:

Volunteers who work with vulnerable populations often need to have their backgrounds checked. Live Scan serves as a quick, accurate, and efficient means of conducting these checks.

  • Child Services: Those volunteering in schools, children's hospitals, or at children's events are often required to undergo a Live Scan check to ensure the safety of the children they interact with.
  • Senior Care: Volunteers in elder care facilities or home care services may need to undergo a background check to protect the vulnerable population they serve.
  • Disability Services: Those working or volunteering in roles assisting individuals with disabilities often require a comprehensive background check.

4) Visa/Immigration Procedures:

Certain visa and immigration procedures necessitate the use of Live Scan fingerprinting. It helps immigration officials affirm the applicant's identity and scrutinize any criminal history.

  • Visa Applicants: Certain types of visa applicants may need to undergo Live Scan fingerprinting as part of their application process.
  • Immigrants: Immigrants applying for residency or naturalization may also be required to provide fingerprints via Live Scan.

5) Adoptions and Foster Care:

Prospective adoptive or foster parents must undergo a background check to ensure the safety of the children they intend to care for. Live Scan is often used due to its accuracy and speed.

  • Adoption Services: Individuals or couples looking to adopt a child are usually required to undergo a comprehensive live scan background check.
  • Foster Care Services: Potential foster parents must also submit to a thorough background check to ensure they can provide a safe and supportive environment for the children under their care.

As we've seen, Live Scan fingerprinting has a wide range of applications, including employment, licensing, volunteering, and adoption procedures. It is a critical tool for verifying people's identities and determining their suitability for various roles and responsibilities. What makes Live Scan the preferred method for these critical background checks? In the following section, we'll look at the key advantages of this cutting-edge technology that make it a better choice than traditional methods.

Where to Find Live Scan Providers Near You?

Understanding the process and benefits of Live Scan technology is one thing, but how do you go about finding a provider near you when you need this service? Whether you're an individual seeking a background check for employment, licensing, or volunteer work, or you're an organization needing to arrange this service for multiple individuals, we've got you covered. Here's a guide on how to find a Live Scan provider in your area.

1) Google Maps or Online Search:

If you're not sure where to start, a simple online search can often yield quick results.

  • Google Maps: Simply type "Live Scan locations near me" into Google Maps to find Live Scan providers in your vicinity. This can also give you a sense of each location's operating hours, contact information, and customer reviews.
  • Online Search Engines: A similar search on your favorite search engine can provide a list of Live Scan providers in your area.

2) Use Online Locator Tools:

The most straightforward way to find a Live Scan provider is through online locator tools. Many law enforcement agencies and private service providers have online locators that allow you to input your zip code or city to find the closest Live Scan location. Here are a few examples:

  • FBI-Approved Channelers: The FBI provides a list of approved channelers that offer Live Scan services, which can be found on the FBI's website.
  • State Department of Justice Websites: Many state DOJ websites provide lists or locators for approved Live Scan service providers.
  • Private Companies: There are numerous private companies across the country that offer Live Scan services, many of which have easy-to-use locators on their websites.

3) Visit Local Law Enforcement Agencies:

Many local law enforcement agencies, such as police departments or sheriff's offices, offer Live Scan services. It's a good idea to call ahead to confirm, as some may require an appointment.

4) Check with Regulatory Bodies:

If you need Live Scan for licensing or certification, the regulatory body in your field (such as the state bar for lawyers or the state department of health for healthcare professionals) may provide information on where you can access Live Scan services.

5) Consult Your Employer or Prospective Employer:

If you're required to get a Live Scan for a job, your employer or prospective employer will likely give you information on where to go. Some larger organizations may even have Live Scan equipment onsite for convenience.

6) Look for Mobile Live Scan Services:

For even more convenience, some Live Scan providers offer mobile services, where they bring the Live Scan equipment to your location. This can be particularly useful for organizations that need to fingerprint multiple individuals at once.

When planning your visit, remember to bring a valid form of government-issued identification, such as a driver's license or passport. You'll also need the necessary paperwork, which typically includes a request for Live Scan service form with the information of the requesting agency.

Finding a Live Scan provider near you can be as simple as a few clicks on your computer or smartphone. With the widespread application of Live Scan across industries and professions, it's easier than ever to access this fast, secure, and efficient technology. In the end, Live Scan continues to deliver on its promise - streamlining the background check process in a way that saves time, ensures accuracy, and maintains the highest standards of security and privacy.

What are the Top Benefits of Live Scan?

Live Scan fingerprinting has revolutionized the way background checks are conducted, providing a multitude of benefits over traditional ink-and-paper methods. This technology's rapid adoption is attributed to its unique combination of speed, accuracy, reliability, and convenience, making it a preferred choice across various sectors. Let's explore these benefits in more detail.

1) Speed and Efficiency:

One of the most striking benefits of Live Scan is its speed. Traditional fingerprinting methods could take weeks or even months to produce results. With Live Scan, the results can be available within a few minutes to a few weeks, depending on the specifics of the background check.

  • Rapid Processing: The digital capture and transmission of fingerprints eliminate the time taken to mail physical fingerprint cards. This results in quicker turnaround times for background checks.
  • Quick Results: For urgent cases, Live Scan can provide almost instant results, with the process from capture to result delivery completed within minutes.

2) Accuracy:

Live Scan technology minimizes the chance for errors that can occur with manual processes, increasing the accuracy of identification and background checks.

  • High-Quality Images: Live Scan devices capture high-resolution images, reducing the chances of smudged or unclear fingerprints that could lead to errors or the need for re-takes.
  • Error Checking: The software used in Live Scan includes features for checking the quality of the fingerprints at the time of capture, reducing the likelihood of rejections due to poor quality images.

3) Security:

Security is a significant benefit of Live Scan. The process is designed with stringent measures to protect sensitive personal information.

  • Secure Transmission: Live Scan technology includes secure encryption, ensuring the safe transmission of sensitive data.
  • Privacy Protection: The digital nature of Live Scan means that the fingerprint images are not stored and can be deleted once the process is complete, protecting individual privacy.

4) Convenience:

Live Scan brings unprecedented convenience to the background check process, benefiting both the individuals being fingerprinted and the organizations conducting the checks.

  • Clean Process: Because the process is digital, there's no ink and no mess, which makes for a much more pleasant and cleaner experience.
  • Multiple Locations: Live Scan services are offered at many locations, making it easier for individuals to find a convenient location to complete their background check.

5) Versatility:

The versatility of Live Scan makes it suitable for a range of uses and industries, as we've seen in the previous section.

  • Wide Application: Live Scan is used across a multitude of sectors, from law enforcement and immigration to education and healthcare, demonstrating its adaptability to different needs.
  • International Use: Live Scan's efficiency and accuracy have led to its use worldwide, making it a globally accepted method for fingerprinting and identity verification.

6) Public Safety:

Live Scan plays a crucial role in promoting public safety by enabling quick and accurate background checks.

  • Immediate Identification: In law enforcement scenarios, Live Scan can provide almost immediate identification, helping to apprehend suspects more quickly.
  • Preventing Unsafe Hiring: In sectors like education, healthcare, and public services, Live Scan helps prevent the hiring of individuals with specific criminal backgrounds, protecting vulnerable populations.

7) Environmentally Friendly:

Live Scan offers a greener alternative to traditional fingerprinting methods, contributing to environmental sustainability.

  • Paperless Process: Traditional fingerprinting methods use ink and paper, contributing to deforestation and environmental waste. Live Scan, being a completely digital process, eliminates the need for these materials, reducing our ecological footprint.

8) Compliance:

Live Scan helps organizations meet their regulatory obligations and maintain their reputations.

  • Regulatory Requirements: Many industries are legally required to conduct background checks. Live Scan offers a reliable and efficient solution to meet these compliance requirements.
  • Audit Trails: The digital nature of Live Scan provides clear audit trails, which are essential for maintaining records, ensuring accountability, and providing proof of compliance during inspections or audits.

In summary, Live Scan's benefits are substantial and wide-ranging, making it an invaluable tool in our digital age. Its speed, accuracy, security, convenience, versatility, environmental friendliness, contribution to public safety, and facilitation of compliance mark it as a key player in the field of modern identification and verification processes.

Wrap Up

As we've journeyed through the remarkable evolution of Live Scan fingerprinting technology, it's clear that this sophisticated tool has revolutionized how we perform identity checks and background screenings. From being a convenient and speedy process to ensuring higher accuracy and improved security, Live Scan continues to serve a myriad of sectors, including employment, licensing, and public safety, among others.

From employers conducting pre-employment screenings, professionals seeking licensure, volunteers working with vulnerable populations, to immigrants embarking on a new chapter in the U.S., Live Scan plays an integral role in many walks of life. Its widespread use in various sectors testifies to its reliability and effectiveness, and its potential to serve as a standard for identity verification globally.

The Live Scan fingerprinting cost varies depending on the location and purpose, but it is generally affordable and often considered a worthy investment given the security and peace of mind it offers.

Finding a Live Scan provider near you in the United States is straightforward, with numerous DOJ-certified locations available across the country. Remember to verify any service provider's credentials and prepare adequately for your session to ensure a smooth and successful experience.


Unlocking the Secrets of Fingerprint Recognition

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