This September the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate plans to host its next Biometric Technology Rally and is seeking applications from vendors to provide camera systems and face biometric matching algorithms for identifying people in small groups.

At the same time, S&T wants to ensure that the screening systems don’t process bystanders who have not opted-in to be screened via the biometric process.

“Previous rallies were focused on effectively processing individuals one at a time with and without face masks,” Arun Vemury, director of S&T’s Biometric and Identity Technology Center, said in a statement. “However, people often travel in families or groups. Now we plan to assess how well these systems work when identifying individuals within small groups that opt-in to using the system, while avoiding bystanders in a crowded environment who have not opted-in. We believe that this more difficult and realistic scenario will challenge the biometrics industry to innovate for the benefit of travelers and DHS stakeholders.”

The scenario for the upcoming rally will be “unattended” and “high-throughput,” requiring the capture systems to rapidly acquire facial images and then for the matching algorithms to quickly identify the individuals, S&T said. The agency also said that the systems will have to “meet performance benchmarks for each demographic group.”

Results from the rally, just like previous rallies, will be provided to participating vendors to improve their technologies.

The most recent biometric test event hosted by Vemury’s team last fall showed that the biometric systems have improved to identify people whose faces are partially masked, regardless of demographics. However, the results also showed that more work needs to be done on the actual cameras that capture a facial image.

Sometimes the camera systems don’t recognize that there is a face in front of them, so they don’t take a picture. Last year’s rally showed that camera system manufacturers need to put more attention on their software and algorithms so that the cameras fail far less frequently.

The biometric rallies are held at S&T’s test facility in Maryland.