Milestone-Proposal:AFIS NEC

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Docket #:2017-16

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

First Operational Large-Scale Latent Fingerprint Identification System, 1982

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

NEC, formerly known as Nippon Electric Company, introduced the world's first large-scale automated fingerprint identification system (NEC AFIS) equipped with a latent fingerprint matching function in 1982. This was a powerful crime-solving tool capable of matching even fragmented latent fingerprints against a large database, a task that previously had been impossible. It enabled the world's police agencies to expedite searches for suspects, an efficiency that many public-safety experts valued.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Tokyo Section, Japan

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Tokyo Section Treasurer
Senior Officer Name: Yukitoshi Sanada

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Tokyo Section Secretary
Senior Officer Name: Toshohiko Sugie

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Tokyo Section Chair
IEEE Section Chair name: Iwao Sasase

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Masanori Hara
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Takashi Miyazaki
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

5-7-1 Shiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8001, JapanLongitude: 139.748056 Latitude: 35.649432

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The intended site of the milestone plaque is the headquarters of NEC Corporation, where the NEC AFIS was developed toward commercialization.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

The milestone plaque will be attached to the wall of the main entrance of the headquarters of NEC Corporation. The location will be suitable as every visitor will be able to see the milestone plaques

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The intended plaque site is in the site of the headquarters of NEC Corporation. Security guards watch but visitors can freely observe the milestone plaque.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank, Limited

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

This work is historically significant because it was the world's first large-scale automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS) capable of matching latent fingerprint against a large database of 6 million subjects to be developed and successfully installed. After installation and commencement of operation at the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) in December 1983 and in the State of California (CAL-ID) in August 1985, the NEC AFIS identified many previously unidentified latent prints and proved that this computerized system could match even small fragmental latent prints, which were impossible for human examiners to search for, to a large database very quickly. The success of these early installations prompted other law enforcement agencies to seriously consider procuring an AFIS and also pushed many AFIS vendors to enhance and improve their AFIS functions and matching accuracy. Other notable facts are given below.

1) The NEC AFIS achieved high latent print matching accuracy (far better than competitors) and quick response time (several minutes to several tens of minutes) with the large database (up to 6 million subjects). It identified the famous serial killer known as the “Night Stalker” in Los Angeles in 1985. [N1], [N2], [N3], [N4].

2) The NEC AFIS helped reduce crime rates. For example, the number of burglaries reduced 26% at the SFPD in the first 5 years of the NEC AFIS’s operation [N1], [N2].

3) The NEC AFIS was the first AFIS online connected with a digital image retrieval system (DIRS) of fingerprint images, and it was able to retrieve candidate fingerprint images quickly and helped to find suspects more easily and swiftly. The quick response time of the latent matching and image retrieval led to reduced recidivism.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

There were many technical obstacles for latent matching. There are two types of fingerprint – tenprints and latent prints. Tenprints are referred to as known prints or rolled prints and are prints that are intentionally recorded. Tenprint cards consist of fingerprints of all ten or all available fingers. Tenprints are generally large images containing the complete area of the finger surface and are of good image quality. Latent prints are unintentionally left at crime scenes. Latent prints are generally small fragmental images and are of poor image quality. Latent prints are sometimes severely distorted by plastic distortion and skin elasticity. A tenprint identification system (or Tenprint Matching AFIS), which matches tenprint cards against a tenprint card database, became operational in the late 1970s at the FBI.

Tenprint matching is much easier technically than latent matching, which matches latent prints against each of the ten fingerprints of each tenprint card in a database. As mentioned above, the image size of tenprints is larger than that of latent prints, and tenprints also have much better image quality. Further, the combinations of pattern types of tenprints and age and gender information can limit searches to a very small segment of a database so that match responses become faster, and matching accuracy can improve.

The vendor that delivered the FBI’s Tenprint Matching AFIS also developed a latent identification system (or Latent Matching AFIS) based on the technique used in tenprint matching and delivered its Latent Matching AFIS to several law enforcement agencies, including CAL-ID, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. According to CAL-ID’s evaluation, its Latent Matching AFIS could not fulfill CAL-ID’s needs because of its storage and processing limitations. [N2], [N4]

AFIS makes no decisions (hit or no-hit) on identity. It produces what is known as a candidate list, which contains highly probable tenprints, so that manual comparisons by fingerprint experts can be minimized. In the early 1980s, there was no digital image retrieval function in AFIS. Therefore, fingerprint experts had to pick up candidates’ tenprint cards from cabinets for manual comparison. This was very time-consuming and tedious work.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

NEC implemented many innovations in order to improve latent matching accuracy and response time. Some of them are given below:

1) NEC implemented double scanning resolution (500-ppi scanning instead of other vendors’ 250-ppi scanning) in order to read narrow fingerprint ridges from small fingerprints (typically those of women and juveniles) and to read unclear ridges. [A3]

2) NEC implemented a new feature called “relation,” consisting of an inter-minutia ridge counting feature that other vendors did not have at that time. The relation feature improved matching accuracy for latent prints with severe plastic distortion. [A1], [A2], [A3]

3) NEC implemented a new feature called “zoning” or “local quality,” which gives the quality of a specific region of data, a feature that other vendors did not have at that time. The zoning feature improved matching accuracy by reducing the matching score of non-matching tenprints in the database (gallery). [A1]

4) NEC adopted new feature called “curvature,” which gives local ridge curving characteristics, a feature that other vendors did not have at that time. The curvature feature improved matching accuracy for small latent prints by adding additional features for comparison. [A1]

5) NEC developed a specialized fingerprint reader (FR) that scans fingerprint at 500-ppi resolution. FR has parallel-processing architecture and is equipped with a customized image processer and memory board so that it can process tenprint cards very quickly (15 seconds per tenprint card). [A3]

6) NEC developed a specialized fingerprint matching processor (FMP). FMP has parallel-processing architecture and is equipped with a customized LSI so that it can process complex (computation intensive) matching algorithms very quickly. FMP can match latent prints to fingerprints of tenprint cards at a rate of 700 comparisons per second. [A3]

7) Because of newly implemented features, the template data size became 4 times larger than that of other vendors (1000 bytes per tenprint instead of 250 bytes). The data transfer speed of these templates became a serious obstacle for high-speed matching. NEC implemented a new system architecture so that two main processors (the AFIS central controller and each FMP controller) could directly access the same hard disk drive of the database independently and simultaneously. FMP direct access to the database reduced the time required for template data transfers. [A3]

8) In DIRS, NEC implemented an optical disk system, which was new hardware in the early 1980s, to fulfill the need for quick fingerprint image retrieval without increasing hardware costs too much. The NEC AFIS was the first AFIS with a digital image retrieval function. [A3]

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

News N1: Moses, K. R. Consumer’s Guide to Fingerprint Systems. Ident. News 1986, 36 (6), 5–7, 10. (Ident_News_June1986_Moses.jpg)

N2: Moses, Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). The Fingerprint Sourcebook, Chapter 6. (fingerprintsourcebook_Chap6_AFIS_Moses.pdf)

N3: TIME No. 41 October 14, 1985 (p53) (TIME1985Oct P53.pdf)

Papers and Patents or Others A1: Asai, et al. Automatic fingerprint identification; SPIE Vol. 182 1979: (SPIE1979_AFIS_Asai.pdf)

A2: Asai, et al. Method and device for matching fingerprints with precise minutia pairs selected from coarse pairs; USP 4,646,352 (USP4646352Asai.pdf),646,352.PN.&OS=PN/4,646,352&RS=PN/4,646,352

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

N4: CAL-DOJ Status Report 1986 (CAL-DOJ Status Report 1986.pdf)

A3: NEC AFIS Brochure, NEC 1986

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.