Fingerprint technology making an impression

If you’re plugged into technologies’ buzz words these days, you already know that the economic and physical security of business and individuals are big topics. It’s all tied to the security of communications and data within each company and beyond. Realizing security and technology are never going to be perfect, how do we manage the risks?
Well, last month the WebTalkGuys took our microphones to the South Sound Technology Conference ( held in Tacoma. The convention is a forum designed to further the continuous growth of technology and provide information about global technology issues. The topic at hand was security.
We had a chance to talk with one of the world’s leading security research and development firms, SAGEM Morpho ( They’ve been around for over 20 years and their core business focuses on biometrics – that is, they make technology that figures out who you are based on your fingerprints.
SAGEM Morpho works with government and commercial sectors. Their solutions are in use by more than 35 government agencies. While SAGEM Morpho is based in Tacoma, WA, their parent company – – is based in Paris and employs 13,000 people in more than twenty countries. In addition to biometrics and security, SAGEM provides products and services in the fields of telecommunications and defense.
We caught up with SAGEM Morpho’s Rick Walker, Manager of Civil and Conversion Systems Engineering, to talk about biometrics, airport security and being a French company based in Tacoma. Following is our conversation from the convention floor:
Q: Tell us what SAGEM Morpho does?
A: We build computer systems for forensic evaluation for use with fingerprints and other identifications like ID cards, visas, passports. Internally to the United States we use it for welfare fraud prevention and other civil applications like that, airport, employment.
Q: Are some of your clients the government or military?
A: Yes. We partnered with a systems integrator and converted the FBI from card-based to electronic-based. We are currently installing a new system for the state of New York Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance – they’re welfare fraud prevention. We’re installing a system for the state police in Arizona – the Department of Public Safety. Last week we installed an airport management application system to send prints to the FBI. We have all kinds of systems going in.
Q: The topic of the SST 2002 is security. You’re doing work with the FBI and the airlines. What specifically are you doing to help us feel safer in this country?
A: The Office of Homeland Security and the FAA have directed that the airport personnel be screened, and so the way that they do that is to collect their information, including fingerprints, at the airport and submit those to the FBI. We provide some of those linkages and systems. They actually sit down and enter the data, and it goes off through the Internet to the FBI.
Q: SAGEM Morpho is headquartered in Tacoma, but it is also a French company. How does that work and where are your real roots?
A: The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SAGEM Group of France, which is headquartered outside of Paris. They are primarily a defense and communications system manufacturer, so they also do cell phones for France. We’re part of the defense and security systems group and we are based on technology that was developed in France, and here in the United States we do primarily customizations of those applications. But we also build some applications here in the United States that are specifically for U.S. markets and U.S. customers.
Q: How many people are employed in the U.S. contingent?
A: It’s somewhere around 300.
Q: Because of your profession, you’re very aware of online privacy and security. Do you shop online? If you don’t, is it because the whole security issue?
A: I do shop online, and I do based on the accepted security level by the agencies that provide that kind of thing like Verisign and some of the other well-known signature providers. I do that with nationally recognized companies. I shop with,, and especially.
Q: The Internet is probably very important to you and used every day in your job. Do you access the Internet at home, personally? If so, what do you use it primarily for?
A: Well, I obviously use it for personal e-mail. I’m retired military, so I keep in touch with all my old military buddies through the Internet. I also use it for education. That’s how I get knowledge of new sectors of information that I need to work on, new products, new technologies and programming and development environments. I also use it for genealogy searches. I use it to keep in touch with my family, all of whom live outside of the state, so we’re all wired up.
Q: Any final words about the Internet?
A: I just think it’s the greatest thing that’s happened lately. I think the uses of it are yet to be determined. The more we can figure out how to use it effectively, the better we’ll be.
More information on SAGEM Morpho is at their Web site at The site currently has a streaming video clip from a recent CNN interview. The full audio interview with Rick Walker will broadcast Saturday, June 22, on Tacoma’s KLAY 1180 AM and on CNET Radio stations in San Francisco and Boston. It’s available for listening anytime at
Dana Greenlee is a Web designer and co-host of the WebTalkGuys Radio Show, a Tacoma-based talk show featuring technology news and interviews. It is broadcast locally on KLAY 1180 AM Saturdays at 11 a.m. The show is also on CNET Radio in San Francisco and Boston, on the Web, and via the XM Satellite Network, on IM Networks’ Sonic Box and on the Mobil Broadcast Network. Past shows and interviews are also Webcast via the Internet at