Face Recognition, Biometrics All the Rage on Capitol Hill

Looking more like a laboratory for James Bond's super spy gadgets, a Capitol Hill expo boasted the best offerings of small niche businesses specializing in homeland security.

The expo was planned as a way to introduce government agencies to small companies that are trying to use the best of the country's entrepreneurial spirit to fight the war against terror.

"It's great to see America's entrepreneurs turn their considerable talents toward securing the homeland," Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said at Wednesday's gathering.

Nearly 50 companies touting their high-tech wares participated in the demonstrations, including Gerald Byrnes of Viisage Technology, whose screening device was used during last year's Super Bowl to scan the large crowds for people on criminal watch lists.

He said the device could be used to match up faces with any database one chooses to use — perfect for snatching potential terrorists.

"We like to view it as a tripwire, as an early warning device," said Byrnes.

Vendors were also on hand with specialized ID technology that can match eye, face and thumbprint information with criminal databases. Filmmaker Kodak demonstrated a city-mapping technology designed to help first responders like police and fire rescue teams get to disaster zones more expeditiously.

"As the first responders — fire, police — are going there, I could have remote federal agencies and specialists online visualizing the area with a fairly current aerial imagery," said Michael Huether, a spokesman for Kodak.

Sen. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., who co-sponsored the event with Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo., said he was inspired by the show.

"Our nation has always been the home to innovative, pioneering entrepreneurs, and I think it's critical that we showcase their homeland security products and connect them with federal decision-makers who can enlist their efforts in the war against terror," he said.