Spartanburg company makes mark with fingerprint verification

It sounds almost like a science-fiction movie: a future where you gain access to a room or pay for your groceries with a simple fingerprint scan.

As the emphasis on verifying identities grows in areas such as policing, immigration, voting and travel, a Spartanburg-based tech company says it’s paving the way for cutting-edge fingerprint scanning, particularly in challenging environments.

Integrated Biometrics produces fingerprint scanners for manufacturers and database providers in governments and commercial markets using its light emitting sensor film.

The patented film is durable, light and efficient, and can be used anywhere with little setup, allowing for portable FBI-certified fingerprint scanners to be used anywhere.

“This is a game-changer for the industry,” said Lauren Satilli, the company’s marketing director.

The company produced its latest device, Kojak, earlier this year. It’s the company’s first 10-print roll scanner, as opposed to single-finger scanners.

Formed in 2002, Integrated Biometrics focused on research and development in its first years. It has focused more on sales and marketing in recent years, and company leaders expect continued growth as more partners are added that produce devices that use the patented technology, which contains an electro-luminescent film with phosphorus.

“Our partners around the world are building devices with our units in them. Our secret sauce is this film on the top,” said Dave Gerulski, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’ve got all these different partners that make different devices that are out selling to markets.”

The lightweight fingerprint scanners are now being used in the field for criminal investigations, death cases, airport security, immigration enforcement, voter registration and health care across the world, Santilli said.

The technology allows the fingerprint scanners to work in daylight and in remote locations. Optical scanners, in contrast, are heavy, require coverings and need more manpower to operate.

The Kojak weighs 1.6 pounds, can be powered from a smartphone and can scan ten fingers in less than 10 seconds, Santilli said. Once fingerprints are scanned, the device automatically syncs to whatever software and database are linked to it.

The company currently is working in Africa on a national project to better identify citizens in smaller, rural areas. It’s also working with partners to put the sensors in 44,000 portable tablets for voting and voter registration.

In Japan, an Integrated Biometrics device is used by police officers with handheld scanners to allow for faster, more efficient identification of suspects apprehended in the field.

In the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents use the portable scanners to better identify immigrants. There have been cases where early identification saved someone from being falsely detained after agents determined the person in custody wasn’t the person they were looking for, Gerulki said.

The devices have also helped coroner’s offices identify people faster in death investigations and thereby notify next of kin sooner.

“It’s quicker than to do the old-school ink and paper, especially if you have a body that’s deteriorated,” Santilli said.

Gerulski expects use of the devices will expand to smaller law enforcement departments and other local groups as more partners create products.

The company is doubling in size now, Gerulski said, and he said the fingerprinting industry likely will grow exponentially. He expects credit card companies will soon integrate fingerprint verification, too.

“There’s also a company out there that builds devices and is selling it to resorts, so when you go out to the beach and sit on a chair and order a drink, instead of carrying cash or an ID or anything, it’s just, ‘boom,” he said.

Integrated Biometrics plans to stay in Spartanburg. Several of the company’s leaders call the Upstate home. Gerulski has a home near Atlanta but also an apartment on East Main Street in downtown Spartanburg where he can stay between trips overseas.

The company plans to hire new employees locally while expanding.

“We feel like we’re right on the cusp,” Gerulski said.